E-cigarettes pose ‘small’ risk, says Public Health England

E-cigarettes pose ‘small’ risk, says Public Health England

Public Health England (PHE) has published an updated e-cigarettes evidence review which reveals that e-cigarette smoking has had a positive impact on the use of regular cigarettes.

It also calls on NHS trusts to make e-cigarettes and nicotine replacement therapies available for sale in hospital shops, and to provide patients with dedicated vaping areas.

What does the review say?

The latest report, published today and led by leading independent tobacco experts, covers various aspects of e-cigarettes, including use among young people and adults, public attitudes, and their impact on attempts to quit smoking, as well as an an update on risks to health and the role of nicotine.

The main findings of Public Health England’s evidence review are predominantly positive towards e-cigarettes, saying that vaping poses only a small fraction of the risk of smoking and that switching totally from smoking to vaping has substantial health benefits.

Findings also showed that e-cigarettes could be contributing to over 20,000 people successfully quitting smoking each year.

Nonetheless, over the last few years e-cigarette use in the UK has slowed to just under three million.

What do the experts say?

Professor John Newton, director for health improvement at PHE, said: “Our new review reinforces the finding that vaping is a fraction of the risk of smoking, at least 95% less harmful, and of negligible risk to bystanders.

“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.”

A common concern about vaping is that it encourages young people to get into smoking; however, evidence does not support this concern and, in fact, youth smoking rates in the UK continue to decline, according to the review.

The report also highlights another common misconception: less than 10% of adults understand that most of the harms to health from smoking are not caused by nicotine.
Professor Ann McNeill, lead author and professor of tobacco addiction at King’s College London, explained: “It’s of great concern that smokers still have such a poor understanding about what causes the harm from smoking.

“When people smoke tobacco cigarettes, they inhale a lethal mix of 7,000 smoke constituents, 70 of which are known to cause cancer.

“People smoke for the nicotine, but contrary to what the vast majority believe, nicotine causes little if any of the harm.

“The toxic smoke is the culprit and is the overwhelming cause of all the tobacco-related disease and death.”

What does PHE recommend?

Based on this evidence, Public Health England is urging any smoker struggling to quit to try switching to an e-cigarette and to also seek professional help from a local stop smoking service.

It would also like to see the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency support manufacturers to license e-cigarettes as medicinal quitting aids, and NHS trusts work to ensure that vaping policies support smokers to quit for good.

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