Public Health England’s (PHE) sixth independent e-cigarette report, commissioned from researchers at King’s College London, is published today (Wednesday 4 March 2020)
The e-cigarette report 2020
This is an update on the use of nicotine containing vape products among young people and adults in the UK.
The report states, ‘Current vaping prevalence (weekly or less than weekly) among young people in England has remained reasonably steady with the best recent estimates putting it at 6% of 11 to 15-year-olds in 2018 and 5% of 11 to 18-year-olds in 2019. Older children are more likely to vape. Current use among 11-year-olds was estimated at less than 1% in 2018, compared with 11% of 15-year-olds.’ Highlighting that the vast majority of young people do not vape, which goes against the myth that e-cigarette use fuels nicotine addiction in underage people, a myth that has been used to justify anti-vaping legislation in the US.
The current number of vapers has remained stable since the last report, but the concerning thing is the increased number of smokers that now believe that vaping is more harmful than smoking.
This belief doesn’t match up to expert advice from both the UK and the US, which maintains that vaping is far less harmful than smoking.
The mistaken belief increased rapidly among UK smokers following the US lung injury outbreak in autumn of 2019. US authorities have confirmed that vitamin E acetate, a thickening agent added to illicit cannabis vaping products, was the primary cause of the outbreak. This substance is banned from UK-regulated nicotine vaping products and has been since long before the outbreak.
“The proportion who thought vaping was less harmful than cigarettes declined from 45% in 2014 to 34% in 2019. These misperceptions are particularly common among smokers who do not vape.”
The report points out an ongoing need for monitoring of public perceptions, as researchers fear smokers are being deterred from using e-cigarettes by safety fears and this will ultimately cost lives.
The report also warns that a ban on flavoured liquids would deter some smokers from switching.
The report also talks about vaping among sufferers of mental health issues; they found that, “Overall, rates of current vaping ranged from 3% to 20% among people with mental health conditions in nationally representative population samples. Rates ranged from 0.3% to 21% in representative state-wide or regional survey samples and from 7% to 45% among participants recruited from clinical settings. These high rates of vaping likely reflect the high prevalence of smoking among people with mental health conditions.”
The report concludes that ‘High rates of smoking and vaping together suggest that smokers with mental health conditions should be advised and supported to quit smoking completely, as soon as they feel able to do so. More research is needed on vaping among people with mental health conditions and its efficacy and safety for quitting smoking.’
The new report should be good news for vapers and the vaping industry, once again affirming the stance of healthcare experts that vaping is orders of magnitude safer than smoking, hopefully reassuring smokers that switching to vaping is the safer alternative despite the misleading reporting about the illicit THC issue in America.
It will also hopefully show that more research is needed on the rates of vaping amongst certain under-represented groups, which could improve and even save the lives of a great many people.