There has been a lot of talk in the news today about whether e-cigs could end up being prescribed by the NHS. This stems from a press release published on the UK Government’s website which stated that an expert Independent Evidence Review had come to the conclusion that electronic cigarettes are much safer than their traditional tobacco counterparts.
The key findings of the review include:
- The current best estimate is that e-cigarettes are around 95% less harmful than smoking
- Nearly half the population (44.8%) don’t realise e-cigarettes are much less harmful than smoking
- There is no evidence so far that e-cigarettes are acting as a route into smoking for children or non-smokers
It’s been determined that nearly all of the 2.6 million adults in the UK using e-cigs were previously smokers, and that the amount of non-smokers trying and using electronic cigarettes is very low indeed, much lower than scare-mongering tactics would have us believe, in fact it’s less than 1%.
However, the review raises concerns that increasing numbers of people think e-cigarettes are equally or more harmful than smoking (22.1% in 2015, up from 8.1% in 2013: ASH Smokefree GB survey) or don’t know (22.7% in 2015, ASH Smokefree GB survey).
Emerging evidence suggests some of the highest successful quit rates are now seen among smokers who use an e-cigarette and also receive additional support from their local stop smoking services. So much so that there are calls for electronic cigarettes to be considered alongside other methods for helping people to quit or at least cut down on smoking traditional cigarettes.
Nothing is currently official; you cannot get e-cigs on the NHS.
Professor Kevin Fenton, Director of Health and Wellbeing at Public Health England said:
Smoking remains England’s number one killer and the best thing a smoker can do is to quit completely, now and forever.
E-cigarettes are not completely risk free but when compared to smoking, evidence shows they carry just a fraction of the harm. The problem is people increasingly think they are at least as harmful and this may be keeping millions of smokers from quitting. Local stop smoking services should look to support e-cigarette users in their journey to quitting completely.
Professor Ann McNeill, King’s College London and independent author of the review, said:
There is no evidence that e-cigarettes are undermining England’s falling smoking rates. Instead the evidence consistently finds that e-cigarettes are another tool for stopping smoking and in my view smokers should try vaping and vapers should stop smoking entirely.
E-cigarettes could be a game changer in public health in particular by reducing the enormous health inequalities caused by smoking.
Professor Peter Hajek, Queen Mary University London and independent author of the review said:
My reading of the evidence is that smokers who switch to vaping remove almost all the risks smoking poses to their health. Smokers differ in their needs and I would advise them not to give up on e-cigarettes if they do not like the first one they try. It may take some experimentation with different products and e-liquids to find the right one.
Professor Linda Bauld, Cancer Research UK’s expert in cancer prevention, said:
Fears that e-cigarettes have made smoking seem normal again or even led to people taking up tobacco smoking are not so far being realised based on the evidence assessed by this important independent review. In fact, the overall evidence points to e-cigarettes actually helping people to give up smoking tobacco.
Free Stop Smoking Services remain the most effective way for people to quit but we recognise the potential benefits for e-cigarettes in helping large numbers of people move away from tobacco.
Cancer Research UK is funding more research to deal with the unanswered questions around these products including the longer-term impact.
Lisa Surtees, acting director at Fresh Smoke Free North East, the first region where all local stop smoking services are actively promoted as e-cigarette friendly, said:
Despite making great strides to reduce smoking, tobacco is still our biggest killer. Our region has always kept an open mind towards using electronic cigarettes as we can see the massive potential health benefits from switching.
All of our local NHS Stop Smoking Services now proactively welcome anyone who wants to use these devices as part of their quit attempt and increase their chance of success.
What do you think about this news?
Do you know anyone who still thinks e-cigs are as dangerous as tobacco?
Do you think E-Cigs should be prescribed by the NHS?
Let us know in the comments below.
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