According to a major review of nicotine products, vaping is substantially less harmful than smoking, but action is needed to curb children's e-cigarette use.
Scientists at King's College London said vaping would reduce smokers' exposure to toxic substances that cause cancer, lung and cardiovascular disease, but they strongly advised non-smokers not to do either.
Professor of Tobacco Addiction at King's and lead author of the study Ann McNeill said smoking was "uniquely deadly", killing half of all regular, long-term smokers; however, a survey in England found two-thirds of smokers were unaware vaping was safer.
“Vaping poses only a small fraction of the risks of smoking in the short to medium term, however, this does not mean vaping is risk-free, particularly for people who have never smoked,” she said.
An independent report, commissioned by the Department for Health and Social Care's Office for Health Improvement and Disparities, provides the most comprehensive overview ever of the health risks associated with vaping. Researchers analysed more than 400 published studies from around the world which examined the effects of smoking and vaping on the body.
The report warns, however, that deterrents used to prevent underage vaping need to be designed carefully so they do not discourage smokers from making the switch.
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Lion Shahab, co-director of the Tobacco and Alcohol Research Group at University College London and professor of health psychology, called the new report “the most rigorous, comprehensive and up-to-date piece of work” on the topic in the UK.
He said: “We should ensure that adult smokers get the right support, which includes provision of accurate information about the reduced risk of vaping and how it can help them stop smoking, while also offering educational material to young people who would have never smoked, to discourage them from starting to vape, in addition to better reinforcement of age of sale and advertising restrictions. If this balance can be struck, e-cigarettes can play a powerful role in consigning smoking cigarettes to the history books in the UK.”
What does "Smoke Free England" mean?
"In 2019, the government set an objective for England to be smokefree by 2030, meaning only 5% of the population would smoke by then", says Dr. Javed Khan. This can be done by investing in high-quality support for smokers, promoting vaping, and by "increasing the age of sale (of tobacco products) from 18, by one year, every year until no one can buy a tobacco product in this country", he says.
On vaping, Dr. Khan says "The government must embrace the promotion of vaping as an effective tool to help people to quit smoking tobacco. We know vapes are not a ‘silver bullet’ nor are they totally risk-free, but the alternative is far worse."