Researchers at the university of Otago in Wellington, New Zealand conducted a study with the aim to analyse potential health benefits a more liberal access to e-cigarettes might offer. In order to do so the research modelled the impact liberal access to e-cigarettes has on society, compared to when vaping products have been used less and smoking of traditional tobacco has been higher than today.
The researchers found that in total 236.000 years can be gained for the general population. Additionally, health-care savings were projected to be as high as NZ$3.4 billion in New Zealand (roughly US$2.5 billion). The numbers given by the study are astonishing and show the potential e-cigarettes have in increasing a societies health and quality of life. Although results need to be taken with caution – after all, it is a model with limited variables – they show the potential e-cigarettes offer.
How can e-cigarettes help?
The benefit in using e-cigarettes lies in the fact that traditional tobacco products, such as cigarettes, will be consumed less if e-cigarettes are more liberally accessible. E-cigarettes are considered to be much less harmful than traditional cigarettes, containing roughly 95% less toxic chemicals than cigarettes. The researchers assume that if e-cigarettes were more liberally accessible smokers would more likely make a switch to the healthier product. It is stressed, however, that non-smoking will still be more healthier and increase the benefits discussed even more. But, since e-cigarettes are much less harmful than traditional tobacco products, it was seen as a valuable substitute and thus the center of the study. Effectively, e-cigarettes are a serious replacement for cigarettes and in doing so help smokers stop taking in as many toxic chemicals as before, which leads to the increased life years and the reduced health care cost, since less treatment for smoking related illnesses is neccessary.
Percentage of smokers in New Zealand: https://www.smokefree.org.nz/smoking-its-effects/facts-figures
Why do these findings matter?
The findings of the New Zealand study matter because it can be taken as a role model for other studies of its kind in various countries to calculate the benefit for each society. Additionally, these findings prove that e-cigarettes not only help people on an individual level to live a healthier life but, if made accessible, are able to improve a societies health. The gained quality-adjusted life years are years that humans create a benefit for society. The savings in health care spending can easily be spent in other public sectors needed. Overall, it was shown that if e-cigarettes are made available to a broader mass and get picked up by the smoking population life years can be added and health care cost can be reduced dramatically. It should be seriously considered by governments to act as a tool for smoking cessation and made available more broadly to adult smokers.
To translate these findings into a context in the United Kingdom, Public Health England provided some information about the number of E-cigarette users in the UK that intended to quit smoking with the help of vaping:
E-cigarette use in England: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/health-matters-stopping-smoking-what-works/health-matters-stopping-smoking-what-works
Furthermore Public Health England provided a calculation of the cost of smoking to society in the UK:
Cost of smoking to society: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/health-matters-stopping-smoking-what-works/health-matters-stopping-smoking-what-works
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