The following is a guest post.  As always, opinions contained herein are those of the author.

As the health and financial costs of smoking tobacco continue to mount, a growing number of countries around the world are exploring ways to go smoke-free — including by promoting e-cigarettes.

Here in the United States, close to half a million people lose their lives to tobacco every year, and that extraordinary figure includes people who inhaled someone else’s cigarette smoke. It’s an ongoing human crisis that is entirely preventable — and health authorities here and elsewhere are desperate to bring the soaring mortality figures down.

Many countries have had smoke-free policies in place for a number of years. Although that stops people from lighting up in public places, it does little to get them off cigarettes, as they just go outside to smoke and others are still at risk. As the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says: “There is no risk-free level of secondhand smoke, and even brief exposure can cause immediate harm.”

Kiwi Kool

Now, countries are trying to go a step further and make not only their public spaces smoke-free, but their entire nation. One way they’re attempting to do it is by promoting e-cigarettes, easily obtained from an online vape shop and with the (often optional) inclusion of nicotine, but featuring none of the harmful chemicals found in burning tobacco.

In far-flung New Zealand, the government is aiming to have the country smoke-free by 2025. “Nearly 85% of New Zealanders are smoke-free — that means most of us are choosing not to smoke. The New Zealand government has set a goal so that by 2025 fewer than 5% of New Zealanders will be smokers,” it says.

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Along with reducing tobacco supplies and providing support, New Zealand is making vaping legal to try and coax people off tobacco, while still getting the nicotine hit they desire. “Scientific evidence on the safety of e-cigarettes is still developing but there’s a general consensus that vaping is much less harmful than smoking,” Associate Health Minister Nicky Wagner said.

United Against Tobacco

Meanwhile, top doctors in Britain are due to meet at the Royal Society of Medicine next month to explore ways of turning the UK into a smoke-free nation. Vaping will be among the topics for discussion as the medics seek ways to get people off cigarettes, in an event called Winning the End-Game Against Tobacco.

“The participants will learn of the contribution that can be made by smoking cessation services, the contribution, if any, that e-cigarettes might make and the strategic steps needed to make tobacco-free countries a reality,” the organizers said.

Vaping Probes

The United Kingdom has been at the forefront of vaping research, trying to determine if it’s an effective way to get people to finally kick the habit of smoking. The Royal College of Physicians carried out an extensive study into vaping and concluded that “e-cigarettes are likely to be beneficial to UK public health. Smokers can therefore be reassured and encouraged to use them, and the public can be reassured that e-cigarettes are much safer than smoking.”

Cancer Research UK, the leading such organisation in Britain, also conducted its own, lengthy probe into e-cigarettes. It discovered compelling evidence on why vaping is much better for people’s health than cigarettes.

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“Understanding and communicating the benefits of nicotine replacements, such as e-cigarettes, is an important step towards reducing the number of tobacco-related deaths here in the UK,” said the body’s director of cancer prevention, Alison Cox.

So, is the United States in danger of being left behind in the war against tobacco? It’s not likely. As people here and our health authorities learn what other countries are doing to banish cigarettes for good and vastly improve people’s health, it’s a sure bet that our health authorities won’t be far behind. The Food and Drug Administration is already making further strides to try and get people to stop smoking, and is working on a plan to slash the amount of nicotine in cigarettes.