Italy’s Prof. Riccardo Polosa has advice for Denmark’s Professor Charlotta Pisinger
Catania (Italy), January 23 – Politics must make peace with science. The public debate must mainly take into account the results based on scientific evidence. It is imperative that the data resulting from hundreds of studies be considered as the main source for the application of international public policies.
The latest person to call for a ban on e-cigs ignoring science is Professor Charlotta Pisinger from Denmark who this week recommended such a ban citing examples from 43 other countries during a widely watched television program in Iceland.
“Assuming she has good intentions, Pisinger is unaware of the unintended consequences of bans and the hardline measures she is recommending” said Dr. Riccardo Polosa who heads the Italian Centre for Excellence for the Acceleration of Harm Reduction (CoEHAR, University of Catania). “There is also an important distinction between bans of commercialization and bans on usage. I am aware of countries where commercialization is technically illegal, but there is no persecution for usage. Bans tend to focus on sales rather than personal possession or use, which are less likely to be per se illegal (although obviously use can be restricted in certain areas, and there is always the danger that personal possession could be misinterpreted/misrepresented as possession with the intent of selling)” Dr. Polosa said.
The recent ban on e-cigarettes in India is an example. A black market is believed to have emerged in the country in addition to increased Internet shopping for spurious products masquerading as quality e-cigs. “The situation is all the more worrisome as Professor Pisinger made her call during this popular television program in Iceland – a program arranged by the Icelandic lung association known for its anti-vaping stand,” Dr. Polosa added.
The risk of e-cigs generally stands in the range of 90 to 95 per cent. Innovation in vaping is likely to reduce these residual risks further. Not following to science means not helping those young people who unfortunately started smoking too early and are now using ecig to quit permanently.
Dr. Polosa’s advice comes at a time when other authoritative voices are beginning to wonder if policy decisions on vaping are genuinely ignorant or intentionally so. New research released in New Zealand by renowned tobacco control researcher Dr. Marewa Glover asked Denmark to stop preventing Greenland’s Naalakkersuisut (Kalaallit Nunaat government) to adopt a harm reduction approach to reduce smoking as well as greater access to vaping and snus products. An autonomous Danish territory, Greenland is the world’s largest island and with limited self-government.
Stressing that the Kalaalliat population experience disproportionately greater harm from smoking she said, “Kalaallit Nunaat is not the same as Denmark, Sweden, Iceland or Norway. There is a unique history, a people of a different culture and they are a people who have internationally recognized rights
to self-determination – to not be dictated to by Scandinavian people who think they know better,” Glover said.
CoEHAR studies have shown that even heavy smokers can quit smoking thanks to ecig. Subjects with particular pathologies such as diabetes, high blood pressure and schizophrenia have been able to reduce the damage caused by decades of smoking thanks to the use of low-risk tools.
For several years now, Dr. Polosa and his team have are calling for science to speak to policies on vaping, especially callibrated harm-reduction as a first step to quitting.
The silence over alleged e-cigs related deaths in the United States (US) and the media attention they garnered further suggests that policy decisions cannot be allowed to swing with the vagaries of political decisions, especially in public health. «It is but obvious that all people should be encouraged to quit or to switch to a combination of products that reduce risk – media frenzy and policy bullying cannot be an alternative anymore» said Dr. Polosa.