An annual government campaign against smoking in the United Kingdom is embracing electronic cigarettes for the first time as a effective and health conscious way to ditch the habit.
Public Health England, an agency of the U.K.’s Department of Health, is advocating vaping for smokers as part of their annual “Stoptober” campaign, which will run through the end of October. The health care body will include vapor products and people using e-cigarettes in TV advertisements and other promotional materials targeting smokers during the campaign, reports the British Broadcasting Corporation.
Vaping devices were the most popular 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. Since 2012, more than 1.5 million former smokers have participated in the Stoptober campaign.
The decision to include vaping is stirring criticism from some health officials in the country, but the prevailing research shows vaping is a safer alternative to smoking. The bulk of public health officials in the U.K. appear swayed. 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 professional 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.
“What for the first time NICE is saying is we recognize that e-cigarettes are being used by people to help them quit,” Dr. Gina Radford, the U.K.’s deputy chief medical officer, told BBC Radio 4. “Therefore, engage people in a discussion about how they are using them, encourage them to be using them only as part of a quit attempt…tell them clearly whilst they are much less harmful than tobacco cigarettes, they are not without all harm.”
The government in England recently endorsed e-cigarettes as a safer alternative to smoking, even advocating against vaping bans in offices and public spaces. The U.K.’s Department of Health released a policy paper on e-cigarettes July 18, acknowledging the devices are a useful tool to quit smoking and eliminate second hand risks to the public.
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