Health officials in the United Kingdom confirmed the relative safety of vaping over smoking in a recent research review, saying the devices carry, “a fraction of the risk.”
Public Health England published an independent review of existing research on electronic cigarettes Tuesday from experts in the tobacco field, that shows the devices are improving the quit rate of smokers in the U.K. and accelerating annual declines in the country’s smoking rate. Researchers estimate that roughly 20,000 smokers are using e-cigarettes to quit smoking each year.
Public Health England hopes to improve public education on the relative risks of e-cigarettes when compared to combustible tobacco. Recent polling shows only two in five people in the U.K. know that e-cigarettes are drastically safer to the user than traditional cigarettes. Roughly 40 percent of smokers in the U.K. have never tried a vape, data also shows, suggesting these smokers may falsely believe the devices carry the same health harms as smoking.
“Our new review reinforces the finding that vaping is a fraction of the risk of smoking, at least 95 percent less harmful, and of negligible risk to bystanders,” John Newton, director of health improvement for Public Health England, said in the review. “Yet over half of smokers either falsely believe that vaping is as harmful as smoking or just don’t know. 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.”
The researchers are urging smokers to heed their advice by transitioning to vaping, and are also giving specific recommendations to organizations on how they can integrate vaping and better improve overall public health.
Martin Dockerell, head of Public Health England’s tobacco control efforts, argues e-cigarettes should be available for sale in U.K. hospitals and vaping should be permitted in single-occupancy rooms as well as designated communal rooms. He says former smoke shelters for patients at hospitals would be converted to vape shelters, and all campus smoking would be prohibited.
The U.K. currently has the second lowest smoking rate in all of Europe, and officials stress vaping is a big part of the reason. There are currently roughly three million active vapers in the U.K.
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