Public England Health, an agency of the UK’s Department of Health, says in a new report that vaping is about 95 percent less harmful than smoking, according to their latest “best estimate.”
“While vaping may not be 100% safe, most of the chemicals causing smoking-related disease are absent and the chemicals which are present pose limited danger,” according to the new report, which notes that over the last year public perceptions of electronic cigarettes have shifted to become more negative. Many people have come to believe that electronic cigarettes are at least as dangerous as traditional cigarettes. This perception, according to PEH, was “based on misinterpreted research findings.”
“E-cigarettes are not completely risk free but when compared to smoking, evidence shows they carry just a fraction of the harm,” Professor Kevin Fenton, Director of Health and Wellbeing at Public Health England, said in a statement.
“The problem is people increasingly think they are at least as harmful and this may be keeping millions of smokers from quitting,” he said. “Local stop smoking services should look to support e-cigarette users in their journey to quitting completely.
The report notes that vaping is most common among people who already smoke, and that “low numbers of non-smokers” ever vape. This context is often lost in the discussions around vaping, as some in the public health community see vaping as a positive alternative to smokers who are trying to quit traditional cigarettes.
But there will no doubt be plenty of backlash to this latest report, which comes on the heels of news from the American Medical Association that American high school students who vape are more likely to have tried cigarettes as well. While there was a correlation, the study didn’t prove that e-cigarettes were a “gateway drug” to smoking as many would like to claim.
“It just shows that [teenagers] who are attracted to e-cigarettes are the same people who are attracted to smoking,” Hajek, one of the authors of the PEH study told The Guardian. “People who drink white wine are more likely to try red wine than people who do not drink alcohol.”
As I noted in a blog post last year, the anti-tobacco wing of the public health community has traditionally been very uncomfortable with harm reduction, especially in the United States. For whatever reason the anti-smoking movement attracts people with an all-or-nothing approach to tobacco cessation measures. Which can lead to bad public policy, as we’re seeing play out in the American discussion around vaping. The British public health service, which has a vested interest in keeping people more healthy to drive down the cost of their single-payer system, is at least helping change that discussion to one that includes vaping.
[h/t The Guardian]
(Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)