Just under 40 per cent of smokers in the UK think that vaping is ‘as or more risky’ compared to smoking, according to a YouGov survey of almost 12,300 adults commissioned by ASH.
Last year, just 27 per cent of smokers believed this to be the case.
Almost two million people who smoke have never tried vaping, says ASH, despite it being a ‘very effective quitting aid’, while nearly three million have tried vaping and since stopped. A government ‘swap to stop’ campaign earlier this year offered a million smokers a free vaping starter kit alongside behavioural support, with the success of the scheme threatened by growing concerns that vaping is riskier than smoking, ASH states.
ASH has published a ‘myth buster’ to challenge ‘common misrepresentations of the evidence’ on vaping. Professor Sir Chris Whitty, the chief medical officer, puts the case ‘succinctly’, the document states: ‘The key points about vaping can be easily summarised. If you smoke, vaping is much safer; if you don’t smoke, don’t vape.’
‘The government has backed a vaping strategy as its path to reduce rates of smoking, but this approach will be undermined if smokers don’t try vapes due to safety fears or stop vaping too soon and revert to smoking,’ said ASH’s deputy chief executive Hazel Cheeseman. ‘The government must act quickly to improve public understanding that vaping poses a fraction of the risk of smoking.’
The most recent NHS Digital Smoking, drinking and drug use among young people in England report found that while the number of secondary school pupils who took drugs had dropped from 24 to 18 per cent since 2018 the number vaping had increased from 6 to 9 per cent.
‘Anxiety over youth vaping is obscuring the fact that switching from smoking to vaping will be much better for an individual’s health,’ added Professor Ann McNeill of King’s College London. ‘ It is wrong to say we have no idea what the future risks from vaping will be. On the contrary levels of exposure to cancer causing and other toxicants are drastically lower in people who vape compared with those who smoke, which indicates that any risks to health are likely to be a fraction of those posed by smoking.’
Addressing common myths about vaping: Putting the evidence in context at: ash.org.uk/resources/view/addressing-common-myths-about-vaping-putting-the-evidence-in-context
(Features, August 2023): DDN visited the Global Forum on Nicotine in Warsaw to hear about the challenges of mainstreaming tobacco harm reduction.
(Features, February 2023): The genie’s out of the bottle – embracing tobacco harm reduction could end smoking within a generation, says Knowledge Action Change.
(News, June 2021): Health professionals can recommend e-cigarettes as tools to help stop smoking, according to new draft guidance from NICE and PHE.
Read more articles on tobacco harm reduction, vaping and smoking cessation in the DDN archive.