In 2007 the Royal College of Physicians published a report explaining that since it’s not the nicotine in cigarettes – but the other chemicals and components that make up the cigarette – that health professional could improve the health of smokers by adopting a policy of “harm reduction.”
This is a change from the common rhetoric around smoking, which strives to push smokers to quit. It acknowledges that some smokers can’t or won’t quit. The RCP recognised that ideally, quitting is the best solution, but if it’s not possible, then harm reduction can rapidly improve the health and wellbeing of thousands or even millions of smokers.
What is harm reduction?
“Harm reduction” is something health professionals refer to when they can’t completely eliminate the harmful effects of something but want to reduce them as much as possible.
When used together with the typical quit-based smoking campaigns, harms reduction could help to prevent millions of deaths. The UK government agreed, and adopted harm reduction into their tobacco control strategies in 2010.
How vaping reduces the harm from cigarettes
When you take up vaping, you can choose e-juice that includes a certain level of nicotine. This provides your body with the nicotine hit it requires to sate you and prevent you experiencing nicotine withdrawal.
While e-juice contains nicotine, it doesn’t include all the other harmful ingredients in tobacco. Because you’re inhaling a vapor, instead of smoke, you’re not bringing in the carcinogens into your lungs.
Vaping also eliminates the risks of secondhand smoke. This is huge if you live with family or roommates, or are around other people when you smoke. In this way, vaping doesn’t just reduce harm to your own health, but also the health of others.
Also, because the motions of vaping mimic the experience of smoking, it helps trick your brain into switching over with minimum fuss. This means vapers are more likely to stick with the method than patches or gum or other strategies.
There’s no denying that smoking kills. But despite the overwhelming evidence about its ill effects, there are still many people who can’t or won’t give up their addiction to nicotine. Harm reduction is an important part of ensuring as many of these people as possible have the opportunity to live a long and healthy life.