In a statement that has surprised and delighted in equal measure, Public Health England (PHE) has announced the results of a recent study indicating that electronic cigarettes are 95% safer to use than traditional tobacco cigarettes. Smokers and vapers alike have welcomed the news, as have health professionals and smoking charities, seeing e-cigarettes as the future for quitting.
Prior to this study, the efficacy and risks of e-cigarettes have been debated, with most research findings funded by the e-cig industry. Vapers have always stuck by their conviction that using e-cigarettes helps many smokers quit or cut down, but the long-term effects of vaping have never been properly investigated.
Indeed, even with this latest news, Public Health England – the official body that advises the government and NHS on all health matters within the UK and abroad – admits that it is still impossible to know for certain the long-term impact of using electronic cigarettes. However, their data from this most recent study shows that the effects of vaping are negligible when compared to those of tobacco smoking.
The independent review was led by Professor Ann McNeill of King’s College London and Professor Peter Hajek (Queen Mary University of London). Among the key findings was the telling statistic that e-cigarettes are not encouraging adults and young people who have never smoked to become regular users, with just 1% in each group being tempted into taking up the habit.
Professor McNeill commented that “e-cigarettes could be a game changer in public health in particular by reducing the enormous health inequalities caused by smoking,” an opinion echoed by many leading charities. Professor Linda Bauld of Cancer Research stated that, “the overall evidence points to e-cigarettes actually helping people to give up smoking tobacco,” which will come as no surprise to the 2.6 million vapers, most of whom are current or ex-smokers themselves.
The report does emphasize, however, that vaping is very much a personal preference, so anyone using e-cigarettes shouldn’t abandon them as a cessation aid simply because their first experience isn’t totally positive. The sheer range of e-cig and e liquid styles and flavours means that the likelihood of finding the combination that works for an individual on the first try is small. Yet given the study’s findings that smokers are most likely to quit successfully when using a combination of e-cigarettes and local stop smoking services, it seems absurd to reject such a pivotal method.
In fact, the only concerning result of the study is the number of people who are unaware of the benefits of vaping. According to a UK survey by ASH, a leading stop smoking charity, 22.1% of people in 2015 thought that e-cigarettes were equally or more dangerous than tobacco, and a further 22.7% didn’t know one way or the other. That equates to around 45% of the populace who would, in all probability, be disinclined to try vaping as an aid to quitting.
Hopefully, this PHE report will boost public awareness of the key role that e-cigarettes look set to play in the war against smoking-related illnesses, diseases and deaths. With smoking still the number one killer in the UK, it’s vital we find a way to encourage more smokers to give up or cut back. Thanks to this study, at least now there is verified independent evidence to support the use and advocacy of electronic cigarettes.
Source: PHE, https://www.gov.uk/government/news/e-cigarettes-around-95-less-harmful-than-tobacco-estimates-landmark-review [accessed 13th September 2015]