The government is to launch a new campaign to try and convince UK smokers that vaping is far less harmful than smoking and e-cigarettes provide a good way to help people to quit. The new campaign is to counter the scepticism that has been generated by some scientific studies and media headlines.
PHE’s Stance and Video Evidence
Public Health England (PHE) maintains that vaping is 95% less harmful than traditional smoking. The video in this article demonstrates how much of the harmful sticky black tar accumulates in the lungs of a heavy smoker in just one month. In comparison, the same amount of nicotine intake from an e-cigarette releases only a trace amount of residue.
Smokers need to be reassured that switching to an e-cigarette will be far less harmful than continuing to smoke despite the false fears that are out there. The demonstration in this video highlights the harm caused by each cigarette compared to a fraction of the risk from vaping.
Studies have been published claiming that vaping could harm cells in the lungs without looking into the risks caused by cigarettes. A lab study from Birmingham University claimed that over 20 or 30 years there might be a negative effect and urged ‘cautious scepticism’ over the safety of vaping. They did concede that e-cigarettes were not more harmful than ordinary cigarettes.
The head of the tobacco control programme at PHE, Martin Dockrell, advises caution in believing this type of study. He reminds us that while we may think our scientists are detached about these things, both sides are deeply passionate about it. With contradictory and misleading reports, it is hard to know what to believe. The problem with this is that a smoker finding it hard to quit may not want to believe e-cigarettes are less harmful.
The claim that vaping causes ‘popcorn-lung’ which is a condition that makes people cough and struggle for breath can be caused by a chemical used to flavour popcorn. This chemical, diacetyl, is found in e-cigarettes, but what the studies fail to mention is that it is also in ordinary cigarettes at a level that is 100 times higher.
E-Cigarettes and School-Age Children
Anti-tobacco campaigners are worried that e-cigarettes will be a ‘gateway’ to smoking. Concern in the US is particularly high as vaping has taken off amongst high-school students, rising by 10% in the last year, with many using the USB sized Juul device.
Public Health England says that initially, e-cigarette use did rise among young people in the UK, but it plateaued in 2015. Plus the UK has far tighter regulations than the US, and the level of nicotine in an e-liquids is limited. Juul has higher nicotine levels in its products sold in the US than in the UK. Also, Dockrell says that no studies support the view that vaping increases tobacco use among young people.
Smoking Kills Half the People Who Take it Up
PHE says that e-cigarettes could help so many more people quit. Data from the smoking cessation programme showed that 65-68% of people who used e-cigarettes and nicotine replacement therapies were successful in quitting traditional smoking.
Dr Lion Shahab, from University College London, who appears in the video is concerned that the false belief that vaping is as harmful as smoking may be preventing thousands of smokers from switching to e-cigarettes.
The hope is that the illustrative experiment in this video helps to highlight how much damage traditional cigarettes cause and prove how vaping is so much less harmful. Dr Shahab says that using e-cigarettes on a long-term basis is relatively safe. Similar to using more traditional nicotine replacement products, such as patches or gum, and will boost your chances of quitting successfully.