Words that vapers everywhere have been waiting to hear. Experts are now concluding that e-cigarettes are extremely less harmful than regular cigarettes—95% less harmful to be exact. With this, and more information coming to light experts are backing e-cigs and saying that they may, in fact, truly have the potential to help smokers quit.
The study out August 19th, was published by Public Health England (PHE), and included an expert independent evidence review that concluded e-cigarettes were not only significantly less harmful to people’s health than tobacco, but that they also have the possibility to help smokers kick the habit.
The quote, right on the main page of the PHE’s press release states: “E-cigarettes are 95% less harmful to your health than normal cigarettes. When supported by a smoking cessation service, they help most smokers to quit tobacco altogether.”
First, the study confirms what many others have concluded before. E-cigarettes are safer. However, the findings of this particular study also delve into some of the other issues that have been plaguing e-cigarettes since they entered the market in 2007. Unlike their combustible counterparts, e-cigarettes emit a vapor that delivers nicotine (though not always) to a user without the harmful contaminants that exist in tobacco smoke and tar.
The review was commissioned by PHE and conducted by Professor Ann McNeill of King’s College London as well as Professor Peter Hajek from Queen Mary University of London. They believe that e-cigarettes are a contributing factor to falling smoking rates among adults and young people.
What PHE published was a review of a comprehensive study that found most notably that nearly all of the 2.6 million adults using e-cigarettes in Great Britain were either current or ex-smokers. Of these, most were using e-cigs to help them quit smoking by keeping them from going back to using traditional cigarettes. Less than 1% of these were young adults or youth who had never smoked before, but became regular e-cigarette users. These numbers seem to put to rest the concern about youth gateway use as well as show their real world use as cessation devices.
Unfortunately, there still is a lot of misinformation out there. While the study shows that they are 95% less harmful than regular cigarettes, the reality is almost half of the population (44.8%) still doesn’t know that e-cigs are less hazardous. The long term anti-vaping campaigns that are ever present in the media have convinced many that e-cigarettes are just the same as their combustible predecessors. However, this is clearly very far from the truth.
The study also investigated the claims that e-cigarettes will be some sort of gateway for children into smoking. The review authors, however, are sure to make clear that there is no evidence that e-cigarettes are currently acting as a route for children to begin smoking.
Professor McNeill confirms her findings in a statement, “There is no evidence that e-cigarettes are undermining England’s falling smoking rates. Instead the evidence consistently finds that e-cigarettes are another tool for stopping smoking and in my view smokers should try vaping and vapers should stop smoking entirely. E-cigarettes could be a game changer in public health in particular by reducing the enormous health inequalities caused by smoking.”
Her coauthor agrees. Dr. Hajek, who like his colleague is a well-known e-cigarette expert, believes that the evidence points to e-cigarettes being remarkably safer than regular smokes. He states: “My reading of the evidence is that smokers who switch to vaping remove almost all the risks smoking poses to their health. Smokers differ in their needs and I would advise them not to give up on e-cigarettes if they do not like the first one they try. It may take some experimentation with different products and e-liquids to find the right one.”
Many experts, beyond the qualified review authors, are now chiming in and supporting e-cigarettes and their potential for harm reduction and as cessation products.
Professor Kevin Fenton is the Director of Health and Wellbeing at Public Health England and he voice his support stating:
“E-cigarettes are not completely risk-free but when compared to smoking, evidence shows they carry just a fraction of the harm. The problem is people increasingly think they are at least as harmful and this may be keeping millions of smokers from quitting. Local stop smoking services should look to support e-cigarette users in their journey to quitting completely.”
Professor Linda Bauld is Cancer Research UK’s leading expert in cancer prevention. Her statement also paints a clear picture of the potential for e-cigs as a cessation device:
“Fears that e-cigarettes have made smoking seem normal again or even led to people taking up tobacco smoking are not so far being realized based on the evidence assessed by this important independent review. In fact, the overall evidence points to e-cigarettes actually helping people to give up smoking tobacco.”
Other health relate organizations, even ones that specialize in stop smoking services, are recognizing the potential e-cigarettes have to help people kick the habit. Lisa Surtees is the acting director at Fresh Smoke Free North East, which is the first region in the UK where all of their stop smoking services accept e-cigarettes as a cessation option. Surtees statement was as follows:
“Our region has always kept an open mind towards using electronic cigarettes as we can see the massive potential health benefits from switching. All of our local NHS Stop Smoking Services now proactively welcome anyone who wants to use these vape devices as part of their quit attempt and increase their chance of success.”
With these new findings it is likely that more expert support for e-cigarettes and those who want to quit smoking is just around the corner.