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E-cigarettes raise concerns about smoking rates

Re: “E-cigarettes less harmful, not harmless,” letter, Aug. 17, and “Fixation with e-cigarettes raises questions,” letter, Aug. 19.

Re: “E-cigarettes less harmful, not harmless,” letter, Aug. 17, and “Fixation with e-cigarettes raises questions,” letter, Aug. 19.

 To clarify, e-cigarettes are permitted to be sold in Canada, but contrary to the second letter-writer’s claim, Health Canada does not allow them to be sold if they contain nicotine. So the only e-cigarettes contain a range of unregulated chemicals and range of flavourings. Without further regulations, consumers are being sold a toxic soup of unknown chemicals.

 Further, the evidence is mixed on whether e-cigarettes will assist people to quit. For some, it will work and that is positive. However we know if people use the patch, gum, inhaler and other types of evidence-based pharmacotherapies, they can significantly increase their chances of quitting. There is no magic bullet, but we do know that with support and approved pharmacotherapies, more people will quit. Because e-cigarettes are restricted in Canada from containing nicotine, they will not assist a person who is going through nicotine withdrawal.

A potentially troubling factor is that e-cigarettes might renormalize smoking behaviour, particularly for youth, and be a gateway to smoking. The public health community has been working for years to reduce smoking rates, with great success. However, with more youths trying e-cigarettes, we don’t want e-cigarette use to make smoking seem like a normal, socially acceptable behaviour.

 As Dr. Richard Stanwick states in his letter, e-cigarettes are only less harmful than traditional cigarettes, not harmless.

Adrienne Bakker

CEO, Heart and Stroke Foundation,

B.C. and Yukon

Scott McDonald

President and CEO

B.C. Lung Association