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  • Patrick Cromb

Smokers fail to appreciate the benefits of switching to e-cigarettes

Smoking tobacco is the single largest cause of death , disability and social inequality in health in the UK , costing the NHS 5 billion a year.


Many smokers have switched to vaping (e-cigarettes) , or have used the devices temporarily before quitting nicotine for good.


But are e-cigarettes a safer option?


If you ask Public Health England , who carried out a review of the evidence on e-cigarettes and health in 2015 and again in 2018, they will tell you that e-cigarettes , which do not burn tobacco and produce smoke, but heat a liquid to produce vapour instead , are ‘at least 95% safer' than tobacco cigarettes.



On the other hand, If you ask UK smokers , only about half will tell you that vaping is even safer at all. According to a survey from Action on Smoking and Health, just 53% of UK smokers believe that e-cigarettes are less harmful than tobacco cigarettes. 22% think e-cigarettes are more or equally as harmful as tobacco cigarettes whilst 22% don't know. Only a quarter chose the correct response (a lot less harmful).



Let that sink in for a minute...


22% of current UK smokers (about 2.2 million people) believe that e-cigarettes are just as or more harmful than tobacco cigarettes. Public Health England says that they are 95% less harmful. This is absolutely astonishing.


This is especially frustrating given that a recent clinical trial showed e-cigarettes to be nearly twice as effective as conventional nicotine replacement therapies ( patches , gums, etc) for helping smokers quit.

E-cigarettes are not harm free - If you don’t smoke , don't take up vaping. The 95% figure has been controversial, as the science on vaping is still limited ( particularly lacking are long term studies). However, following their second evidence review, PHE stated that the 95% figure "remains a good way to communicate the large difference in relative risk unambiguously, so that more smokers are encouraged to make the switch”.


Whether the number is 95%, 90%, or 85% less, false perceptions of e-cigarettes constitute a glaring missed opportunity to bring transformative change to the health of smokers in the UK.


For more information on E - cigarettes, see :

https://www.nhs.uk/smokefree/help-and-advice/e-cigarettes (general info) https://publichealthmatters.blog.gov.uk/2018/02/20/clearing-up-some-myths-around-e-cigarettes/. ( myth busting) https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/e-cigarettes-and-heated-tobacco-products-evidence-review ( 2018 evidence review) https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/e-cigarettes-and-heated-tobacco-products-evidence-review/evidence-review-of-e-cigarettes-and-heated-tobacco-products-2018-executive-summary ( executive summary of 2018 updated evidence review)

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