UK Breaks With EU To Endorse Vaping For Smoking Cessation

Steve Birr | Vice Reporter

The United Kingdom’s annual campaign aimed at helping smokers ditch the habit is encouraging the use of electronic cigarettes, which they recognize as “the most popular way to quit in the country.”

Organizers behind the “Stoptober” campaign, which will run through the end of October, hope that a record number of smokers will take the opportunity to quit this year. Public Health England, an agency of the U.K.’s Department of Health behind Stoptober, says vaping is changing the landscape of nicotine replacement by offering smokers a more enticing and effective way of transitioning off cigarettes, reports The Pharmaceutical Journal.

The move is a major break with health officials from the European Union, who are generally alarmed by the rise of vaping and claim that there is not enough research to show that the devices are safe. Health bodies in the U.K. increasingly reject this narrative and are embracing the devices as a way to drastically reduce death and illness from smoking.

“E-cigarettes are now the most popular way to quit in the country, with half of all those taking part in Stoptober last year using an e-cigarette,” said John Newton, director of health improvement for Public Health England, according to The Pharmaceutical Journal. “The evidence is clear — vaping is much less harmful than smoking — a fraction of the risk.”

The bulk of public health officials in the U.K. appear swayed by the growing body of positive research on vaping. The latest guidance from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) does not endorse vaping as a smoking cessation tool, but acknowledges the pro-vaping stance of esteemed health bodies in the country.

The Royal College of Physicians agrees that using e-cigarettes eliminates most of the harms attributed to smoking. The medical body also recommends vaping for patients trying to quit traditional tobacco products. Vaping eliminates up to 95 percent of the risk associated with cigarettes because the majority of cancer-causing chemicals are inhaled through smoke, according to Public Health England.

Vaping devices were the primary method used to quit among smokers participating in last year’s Stoptober campaign, with 53 percent of participants reporting using e-cigarettes, according to organizers of the anti-smoking effort. More than 1.5 million former smokers have participated in the Stoptober campaign since 2012.

The U.K.’s Department of Health released a policy paper on e-cigarettes July 18, backing the devices as a useful tool to quit smoking and eliminate secondhand risks to the public. The department’s Five Year Tobacco Control plan aims to significantly slash the smoking rate, and argues that maximizing public access to vaping will help achieve this goal.

Health officials in the country hope that greater access to e-cigarettes can bring the smoking rate down from 15.5 percent to 12 percent by the end of 2022. The report states that the government wants to “minimize the risk of harm” to the smoker and those around them by “maximizing the availability of safer alternatives to smoking.”

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