In an effort to completely wipe smoking from their campuses in favor of healthier alternatives, two vape shops are opening their doors on hospital grounds in England. UK-based e-cigarette retailer Ecigwizard has been given the all-clear to move into Sandwell and West Birmingham N.H.S. Trust hospitals. Goals, according to Spiked Online, are to “attract patients who are struggling to quit smoking and to help medical professionals learn more about vaping. The BBC went a step further, reporting that the vape shops are “a public health necessity.”
Before the announcement, the hospitals removed ashtrays from outdoor smoking areas. Violators who are found smoking on hospital grounds face fines of around $62 (50 pounds). Vaping, however is welcomed on grounds — even former smoking areas have been converted into vape-safe locations. Smoking was banned inside England-based hospitals in 2007, and more hospitals are converting into smoke-free campuses.
The United States obviously has not jumped on board quite as welcoming as the UK, which brought us the Public Health England study that recommended e-cigarettes be available for sale in hospital shops. The New York Times notes that UK-based public health officials “have embraced the use of e-cigarettes as effective for people who want to quit smoking,” and cited another England public health agency report published last year that showed “vaping posed ‘only a small fraction of the risks of smoking’ and that switching completely to vaping brought ‘substantial health benefits.’”
“It’s not as radical as it might first appear,” Dr. Debbie Robson, a researcher in tobacco addiction at King’s College London, told The New York Times of the Birmingham hospitals’ new policy. She said e-cigarettes were allowed in most mental health hospitals in Britain, including indoors. Ann McNeill, the public health report’s lead author and a professor of tobacco addiction at King’s College London, echoed Robson’s quote to the Times. “The toxic smoke is the culprit and is the overwhelming cause of all the tobacco-related disease and death,” and said “hospitals that are most effective in reducing smoking are those that ‘have a tobacco dependence treatment pathway embedded in the hospital services’ rather than simply banning smoking.’”
While smokers in the UK are saving their own lives by making the switch, Spiked reports that policymakers in the United States “are stoking hysteria about e-cigs.” An editorial, published in late July titled, “What America can learn from England about vaping,” said that “a U.S. hospital would never allow a vape shop to open on its premises. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) still maintains that e-cigarettes are harmful to general public health, rejecting the existing evidence,” and that outgoing commissioner Scott Gottlieb “helped to manufacture hysteria about young people vaping. Federal data does show that millions of young people have tried e-cigarettes. But this has been construed by Gottlieb, other top-level Trump appointees, the tobacco-control movement and the media as something far worse than it actually is. Countless analyses of the data show no corresponding proof that millions of young people are addicted to e-cigs. While curtailing underage uptake of e-cigarettes is essential, the U.S. has still failed to find a balance in regulation.”