Harm reduction leaders in the United Kingdom are launching the first ever “Vaping Awareness Month,” which seeks to clear up misconceptions about the devices and help smokers transition off cigarettes.
The U.K. Vaping Industry Association (UKVIA), a leading advocacy group for electronic cigarettes, announced the campaign Tuesday in a statement saying they want to target the large swath of the smoking population that still hold false beliefs about the health consequences of vapor products when compared to combustible tobacco.
The anti-smoking effort, dubbed VApril, will offer smokers free vape tutorials at local participating vape shops that introduce new users to the varying products and devices. Participants can also download a free information guide titled, “Vape to break the smoking habit,” which encourages smokers to, “take the VApril challenge” and ditch combustible cigarettes.
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 3 million active vapers in the U.K. Despite progress in reducing smoking rates, recent polling shows only two-in-five people in the U.K. know that e-cigarettes are drastically safer 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.
“VApril is all about changing this picture by helping more cigarette users to make a successful and permanent switchover,”Dr Christian Jessen, a prominent British doctor heading the campaign, said in a statement to The Daily Caller News Foundation. “I personally believe vaping has overwhelming potential to help smokers break their habit, and this is important because stopping smoking is the single most significant step that people can make to improve their health.”
Public Health England, an arm of the U.K.’s Department of Health, published an independent review of existing research on e-cigarettes on Feb. 6 from experts in the tobacco field, which shows the devices are accelerating annual declines in the country’s smoking rate.
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.
“In Britain and increasingly in the US, we’re seeing vaping become mainstream, as more people use e-cigarettes to stop smoking and do so successfully,” said Pascal Culverhouse, founder and CEO of Electric Tobacconist. “We’re proud to support VApril as an initiative to help drive down smoking rates and make people healthier.”
Researchers estimate that roughly 20,000 smokers in the U.K. are using e-cigarettes to quit smoking each year.
Public health experts focused on harm reduction say federal and local health regulators in the U.S., who remain adversarial towards alternative smoking technologies, could learn a lot from the approach of medical bodies in the U.K. They say vaping should be promoted as a way to reduce smoking prevalence and improve health outcomes for millions of Americans.
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