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E-cigarette study doesn’t convince Nova Scotia’s top doctor

Dr. Robert Strang says there is evidence e-cigarettes make it easier for people to continue smoking

A new study from Britain’s Royal College of Physicians that pegs e-cigarettes as a much safer alternative to smoking tobacco isn’t enough to fully sway Nova Scotia’s chief public health officer.

The report, released Thursday, cites expert opinion and concludes the hazards to health from inhaling e-cigarette vapours are likely less than the harms from smoking tobacco.

Nova Scotia’s top doctor, Robert Strang, agreed with that finding — to a point.

“If you’re smoking something, is it safer to use an e-cigarette than a regular cigarette?” he asked.

“I think for any individual, the answer would be, everything we know is much likely to be safer, but that doesn’t mean that it may not come with some risks.”

Strang said the real concern is e-cigarettes re-normalizes the smoking habit. (CBC)

Strang said there is evidence that e-cigarettes make it easier for people to continue smoking.

“They can keep using their e-cigarette where they can’t use a cigarette and then keep using cigarettes where they can.”

That wasn’t the case for John Burke. A smoker for 45 years, at his peak he was inhaling a pack and a half a day.

“Once I tried vaping, it’s been two years, I haven’t had a cigarette since,” he said.

“I don’t smoke nearly as much as I would with cigarettes and there’s no ashtrays and the stink in the car and the stink in the house.”

John Burke was a smoker for 45 years before switching to e-cigarettes. (CBC)

But Strang said the real concern is e-cigarettes re-normalizes the smoking habit and will be another route for young people to take up smoking.

“There’s growing evidence, for instance, in some of the research and surveillance in the United States that more and more young people are, who weren’t previous smokers, are using e-cigarettes,” he said.

“The real risk that they develop and addiction to nicotine and switch to regular cigarette products.”

‘Good luck to us all’

Burke said vaping was his gateway to quit regular cigarettes and he hopes the government doesn’t get too involved.

“I’m glad the research has been done and good luck to us all, I just hope it doesn’t come to the point where it’s controlled such as cigarettes and alcohol,” he said.

Strang said he likes the rules the province has put in place that treat e-cigarettes like all other tobacco products, regulating where they can be sold and consumed.

“I think we have found a very good balance in Nova Scotia while we still wait for some federal direction,” he said.

Strang points out e-cigarettes are only one method to help quit smoking and there are other better studied alternatives out there.

Burke said e-cigarettes were the only solution for him and many other smokers.

“It’s saving a lot of people’s lives, it really is,” he said.

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