One of the most addictive substances that can be consumed by a human being is nicotine. It can take as little as seven seconds for the chemical to reach the brain after inhalation. It is thought that smoking related illnesses kill 114,000 people every year and costs the NHS £2.7 billion.
To date there have been two methods for tackling this problem in the UK: one is to encourage smokers to use nicotine replacement products like gum or patches, and the other is to restrict the areas in which smokers can light up. Both of these methods have been counted as successful, with the smoking ban in public places nearing its sixth year in action – but the habit is proving hard to eradicate, with one in five adults in the UK still considered regular smokers.
Many health campaigners have however expressed their excitement at the boom of the e-cigarette – a faux cigarette that releases a water/nicotine vapour when inhaled. Allowing smokers the tactile sensation of holding a cigarette and breathing in nicotine (without all the harmful tar and cancer-causing chemicals), e-cigarettes have proved wildly popular with those trying to quit.
While initial reactions were promising, critics are now raising their heads to question health benefits and even claim that the device could become a gateway to smoking in children. The British Medical Association have expressed their concerns over a lack of rigorous, peer-reviewed studies to support the claim that e-cigarettes are safe and effective. Until such studies have been carried out, they want sales to be regulated and to instill a ban on using them in public places.
Other healthcare professionals disagree, arguing that the potential rewards far outweigh the risks. Robert West, professor of health psychology and director of tobacco studies at University of London’s department of epidemiology and public health believes that e-cigarettes are completely safe:
“It would be a shame to let it slip away by being overly cautious. E-cigarettes are about as safe as you can get. We know about the health risks of nicotine from studies in Sweden into the use of “Snus” a smokeless tobacco. Nicotine is not what kills you when you smoke tobacco. E-cigarettes are probably about as safe as drinking coffee.”
The only potential problem he does agree with is the fear of ‘clever marketing’ and targeting e-cigarettes at impressionable youths.
Are you struggling to quit smoking? Often there is a psychological addiction alongside the physical one. Seeing a hypnotherapist could help you change your habitual thought patterns and quit for good. For more information, please see our Quit Smoking page.
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