Public Health England (PHE), an executive agency of the Department of Health in the United Kingdom, recently published an independent expert ecigarette review concluding that ecig use is “significantly less harmful to health than tobacco.” The review was led by Professor Ann McNeil of King’s College London and Professor Peter Hajek of Queen Mary University of London and its findings have been published in an online paper that can be found here. Major U.S. media outlets including Time Magazine, The Guardian, Vox and Digital Trends have featured this news, but unfortunately many other major media outlets have opted not to even mention it.
The PHE’s findings in this new review confirm “e-cigarettes have the potential to help smokers quit smoking tobacco cigarettes” and “may be contributing to falling smoking rates among adults.”
The details of the review support what American ecigarette enthusiasts has been saying for years — that e-cigarettes are a reliable, adult alternative for individuals who want to transition away from tobacco smoking. The actual numbers supporting this stance are staggering: almost all of the 2.6 million adults using ecigarette products in Great Britain said that they are current or ex tobacco smokers. The adults evaluated in the review also said that they are “using vapor devices to quit smoking or to prevent them from reverting back to analogues.” More importantly, the PHE review found that less than 1% of adults and young people who have never smoked traditional cigarettes are becoming regular ecigarette users, contradicting popular talking posts promoted in the U.S. media that the majority of ecigarette users are young, non-tobacco smokers.
The review also pinpointed the inaccurate perception that ecigarette use has amongst both non-vapers and vapers, saying that an increasing number of people believed that “e-cigs are equally or more harmful than traditional tobacco smoking.” This generalization was also confirmed in a survey conducted by Action on Smoking and Health (ASH), a UK charity dedicated to eliminating the harm caused by tobacco, claiming that 22.1% of people in 2015 believed these incorrect ecigarette health claims compared to 8.1% of people polled in 2013.
It’s interesting to note that unlike many studies conducted in the U.S., this recent UK review was not funded by the tobacco industry, but rather by the U.K’s Department of Health. According to Vox Media, America’s version of Public Health England – the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — has not done a similar independent review, nor has it taken a harm-reduction stance to date.