There are over 9 million smokers in the UK. That’s 9 million people putting their health at risk from the harmful effects of smoking tobacco. There are over 79,000 deaths every year in the UK from smoking related causes.
The Tobacco Products Directive requires stark warnings and images to be included on cigarette packaging and Public Health England (PHE) advocate the use of e-cigarettes as a way to quit smoking and envisage a smoke free generation within 10 years. Their evidence review, undertaken by leading independent tobacco experts found
- Switching completely to vaping from smoking has substantial health benefits
- vaping poses only a small fraction of the risks of smoking
- E-cigarettes contribute to 20,000 successful quits each year
- There is a year on year improved quit success rates
- Around 40% of tobacco smokers have not yet tried an e-cigarette
- thousands incorrectly believe that vaping is harmful (the recent deaths in USA being caused not be responsible vaping but by using devices to vape illegal substances).
- There is a significant public misunderstanding about nicotine. Less than 10% of adults understand that most of the health risks from smoking are not caused by nicotine
- The evidence does not support the concern that e-cigarettes are a route into smoking among young people, in fact youth smoking rates in the UK are continuing to decline
Professor John Newton, Director for Health Improvement at PHE commented: “Every minute someone is admitted to hospital from smoking, with around 79,000 deaths a year in England alone. Our new review reinforces the finding that vaping is at least 95% less harmful, and of negligible risk to bystanders.”
He added: “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.”
One of the greatest concerns to bodies such as PHE is still the significant lack of understanding amongst smokers as to what actually causes the harm from smoking cigarettes. Tobacco cigarettes contain a lethal mix of 7,000 smoke constituents when inhaled, 70 of which are known to cause cancer.
It’s the nicotine hit that smokers crave, though contrary to popular belief, this chemical causes little if any of the harm. With such a vast variety of alternative ways of getting nicotine than ever before, the thousands of lethal toxins can be much more easily avoided.
What is the NHS doing?
PHE firmly believes that there is compelling evidence that e-cigarettes should be made available to NHS patients as a method of smoking cessation.
With this in mind, they have suggested the following measures be taken by NHS Trusts as we work towards a smoke-free future:
- E-cigarettes, alongside nicotine replacement therapies,are available for sale in hospital shops
- Vaping policies support smokers to quit and stay smoke-free
- Smoking shelters within the hospital grounds should be removed
- Frontline staff take every opportunity to encourage and support patients to quit
This is also very much aligned with the government’s new Tobacco Control Plan for England, which includes a commitment to ‘maximising the availability of safer alternatives to smoking’.
The Plan makes it abundantly clear that e-cigarettes have an important part to play in achieving the ambition for a smoke-free generation.