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E-cigarettes less harmful, not harmless

Re: “E-cigarettes a critical tool in the war on smoking,” comment, Aug. 12. Lauren Millar, despite being a student of the law, fails to point out that the harm-reduction product she advocates for is not even lawful in Canada.

Re: “E-cigarettes a critical tool in the war on smoking,” comment, Aug. 12.

Lauren Millar, despite being a student of the law, fails to point out that the harm-reduction product she advocates for is not even lawful in Canada. To date, under federal law, e-cigarettes cannot be legally sold in Canada if they contain nicotine, the addictive ingredient in traditional cigarettes.

Her contention that e-cigarettes are a proven cessation tool is not supported by other articles in mainstream medical literature. The position taken by Public Health England is at odds with most of the developed world and an exception does not prove the rule. Evidence collection on the role of this latest nicotine-delivery device in reducing smoking is ongoing.

As a tool for cessation, the “free market” provides a product containing wide-ranging unstandardized amounts of nicotine. In practising true harm reduction, the medical profession uses products of known potency as part of the therapeutic process — products of pharmaceutical grade and quantity are already available from pharmacies across the country for this purpose.

Despite the claims of strict ethical codes by an industry group, one has to question why so many of the e-juices used in e-cigarettes are candy-flavoured and seemingly targeted to youth. Moreover, the scientific literature produced by agencies such the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta show this product is being secured by youth and might well serve to create a climate for spawning another generation of nicotine dependency.

Until the federal government adopts a regulatory framework for this product, steps are being appropriately taken at the provincial level. These measures are designed to protect the public against exposure to the chemical-containing plumes and fine particles produced by e-cigarettes that are harmful to health. E-cigarettes are only less harmful than traditional cigarettes, not harmless.

In British Columbia, regulation dealing with second-hand “vape,” mirroring those for second-hand cigarette smoke, will come into place on Sept. 1. This legislation reaffirms the tenet that the “right” is to clean air — not to pollute it.

Dr. Richard S. Stanwick

Chief Medical Health Officer

Island Health