Public Health England (PHE) has voiced its concerns that the US lung disease outbreak has affected smokers’ views on e-cigarettes in the UK, as it reiterates its advice that vaping is much less harmful than smoking.
In its sixth independent e-cigarettes report, PHE said it was “of concern” that an increasing number of smokers believe vaping is more harmful than smoking.
“This is out of line with expert reviews from the UK and US concluding that using regulated nicotine vaping products is far less harmful than smoking,” the government agency said.
PHE’s official advice remains that smokers should switch to e-cigarettes to help them quit smoking, but non-smokers should not take up vaping.
It said the “mistaken belief” that e-cigarettes were more harmful than smoking increased rapidly among UK smokers following the US lung injury outbreak in autumn 2019.
US authorities have now confirmed that vitamin E acetate, a thickening agent added to cannabis vaping products, was a primary cause of the US outbreak. This substance is banned from UK-regulated nicotine vaping products.
The PHE report recommends that:
· proof of age at sale of vaping products needs to be better enforced to protect young people
· health professionals should use advice on using e-cigarettes during pregnancy
· more research is needed into vaping among smokers with mental health conditions and pregnant smokers
· more research is needed into e-cigarette flavour preferences among young people.
PHE director of health improvement, Professor John Newton, said: “It is concerning to see how much the US lung disease outbreak has affected smokers’ views on e-cigarettes here in the UK.
“E-cigarettes are far less harmful than smoking, which causes 220 premature deaths a day in England. Our advice remains that for anyone who smokes tobacco, the most important thing is to stop smoking altogether and e-cigarettes can be an effective way to help smokers do that.”
Welcoming the report, UK Vaping Industry Association (UKVIA) director John Dunne said: “This provides further and concrete evidence that vaping has a crucial role to play in changing the lives of smokers around the country and it dispels the myths that youth vaping is currently a major issue.
“However, it also tells us that the gross misinformation that has been spread about the safety of vaping has had an effect on consumers’ perceptions of e-cigarettes which could greatly influence their decision to switch from smoking which carries significantly more health risk.”
PHE has commissioned a full review of the evidence on the safety of e-cigarettes, which will be published in 2022.