December 15th, 2016
The leaflet below—created by the Smoking in Pregnancy Challenge Group, supported by reputable health organizations like the Royal College of Midwives, and approved by the UK National Health Service—is being distributed to British women. While it doesn’t portray vaping as 100 percent risk-free, its primary emphasis is that using e-cigarettes is far safer than smoking tobacco for pregnant women, as it is for anyone.
According to a review by Public Health England, an agency of the UK’s Department of Health, “the current best estimate is that e-cigarette use is around 95% less harmful to health than smoking.”
And that should be the headline news everywhere. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, tobacco smoking causes 480,000 deaths per year in the US. Everyone has heard that smoking is bad for you, yet about 15 percent of US adults still smoke. Consider, then, what reducing 95 percent of the harms could mean—including in the cases of the many American women who continue to smoke tobacco while pregnant.
In the US, we often demonize women who use drugs of any kind while pregnant, rather than merely offering them support to stay as healthy as possible. US Surgeon General Vivek Murthy last week released “E-Cigarette Use Among Youth and Young Adults“—a report that emphasizes some much-disputed risks of vaping for young and pregnant people at the expense of e-cigarettes’ immense harm reduction value.
In contrast, the officially approved UK materials below calmly state: “Nicotine alone is relatively harmless,” and “If using an e-cigarette helps you stay smoke-free, it is much safer for you and your baby than smoking.”