Vaping poses only a small fraction of the risks of smoking and switching completely from smoking to vaping conveys substantial health benefits, according to a new Public Health England (PHE) electronic-cigarette evidence review.
It covers e-cigarette use among young people and adults, public attitudes, the impact on quitting smoking, an update on risks to health and the role of nicotine. It also reviews heated tobacco products.
PHE lists the report’s key findings as:
* E-cigarettes could be contributing to at least 20,000 successful new quits per year and possibly many more;
* E-cigarette use is associated with improved quit success rates over the last year and an accelerated drop in smoking rates across the country;
* Many thousands of smokers incorrectly believe that vaping is as harmful as smoking; around 40 percent of smokers have not even tried an e-cigarette;
* There is much public misunderstanding about nicotine. Less than 10 percent of adults understand that most of the harms to health from smoking are not caused by nicotine;
* The use of e-cigarettes in the UK has plateaued over the last few years at just under three million;
* The evidence does not support the concern that e-cigarettes are a route into smoking among young people. Youth smoking rates in the UK continue to decline. Regular use is rare and is almost entirely confined to those who have smoked.
PHE’s evidence review comes a few weeks after a US National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine report on e-cigarettes found that, based on the available evidence ‘e-cigarettes are likely to be far less harmful than combustible tobacco cigarettes’.
Professor John Newton, Director for Health Improvement at PHE said that smoking led to someone being admitted to hospital every minute in England, and that there were about 79,000 smoking-related deaths a year in England alone.
“Our new review reinforces the finding that vaping is a fraction of the risk of smoking, at least 95 percent less harmful, and of negligible risk to bystanders,” he said. “Yet over half of smokers either falsely believe that vaping is as harmful as smoking or just don’t know.
“It would be tragic if thousands of smokers who could quit with the help of an e-cigarette are being put off due to false fears about their safety.”
David O’Reilly, British American Tobacco’s group scientific and R&D director, welcomed the report.
“We welcome this latest report from Public Health England which reiterates their view that e-cigarettes are less harmful than smoking; that accurate information is needed about these new products; and that the evidence does not support that e-cigarettes are a gateway to smoking, and may in fact be an important tool to help people quitting,” he said. “It’s positive to see that for the first time they’ve also referenced tobacco heating products [THPs] – and how the available information suggests that these may also be considerably less harmful than traditional cigarettes.
“The report noted that there is significant public misunderstanding about risks associated with vaping and this has coincided with a plateauing of use of e-cigarettes in the U.K. We believe that this lack of understanding could be holding back this important consumer category – consumers and regulators need accurate information to provide them with the facts they need on the potential safety profile of these products. We believe the industry, public health and regulators have a role to play in providing accurate and robust information to support this important category.
“The science we’ve done on our products, across e-cigarettes and tobacco heating products, is pointing in the direction of these being a potentially safer alternative to cigarettes. We all agree that more long-term data is needed and, in line with this, at BAT, we continually assess our products, with many long-term studies currently underway across vapour and THP with our Vype and Glo brands respectively.
“Tobacco harm reduction is a critical part of our company’s strategy. We are committed to offering consumers a choice of high quality, innovative and inspiring alternative products with reduced risk potential, from vapor to THP. With increasing evidence in support of e-cigarettes, as an option for smokers looking for potentially safer alternatives, it is crucial that there is appropriate regulation in place to give consumers the information they need. It is imperative that regulations ensure high product quality and give sensible innovation and marketing freedoms, whilst also ensuring that these products are not available to youth.
“We’ve invested $2.5 billion in this important consumer category over the last six years and our commitment to the future is larger still as we seek to transform tobacco. Our quest to offer more alternatives to cigarettes, with harm reduction potential, could transform tobacco for consumers, regulators and society.”