Today saw the publication of a report by Public Health England entitled Vaping in England: 2020 evidence update summary, which you can read in full here.
It “updates on the prevalence of vaping among young people and adults and reviews literature on vaping among people with mental health conditions and pregnant women” in this country, and – crucially – draws on the latest evidence to deliver its view of how the UK government should proceed in this policy area moving forward.
It concludes that the UK’s current world-leading messaging on e-cigarettes remains valid, but it warns that misinformation is harming uptake of safer products amongst smokers and condemns the spread of doubt from outliers in the UK public health community who should behave better.
As the accompanying press release describes:
False fears preventing smokers from using e-cigarettes to quit
Current vaping use has remained stable in adults and young people since the last report. Of concern is the increasing number of smokers that now 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.
It goes on to feature quotes from PHE and others and suggests that some health activists and the media are responsible for deterring smokers from choosing to switch to products hugely safer for their wellbeing than lit tobacco. Deborah Arnott of ASH goes so far as to “urge smokers to have confidence in our regulatory system and not be put off by alarmist headlines about the risk of vaping which are not backed up by the evidence”.
Professor John Britton of UKCTAS is more robust still at the Science Media Centre, identifying “the urgent need for media campaigns to make sure that all smokers understand that switching to e-cigarettes is one of the most effective ways of quitting smoking and protecting their health.”
PHE also admirably represented consumers by pointing out the vital value of flavoured e-liquids. There has been a concerted effort to prohibit flavours worldwide, but PHE has shown it listens to those who use e-cigarettes by saying that "A ban on flavoured liquids could have adverse effects and unintended consequences for smokers using vaping products to quit". This is in stark contrast to organisations such as the WHO and EU which are stubbornly opposed to reduced risk products – and refuse any input from consumers whatsoever - so it is immensely valuable that PHE is setting out the UK’s stall prior to important meetings later in the year.
Consumers and other supporters of NNA will be well aware of the shameful actions of a diminishingly small number of anti-vaping activists in this country who seem hell-bent on wrecking potential for reduced risk products which could have so much positive impact, despite their proving to be the nation’s most popular and successful quit smoking aid. You will also have heard the increasingly desperate science-lite arguments before and read the irresponsible clickbait journalism that often just parrots scaremongery from fatally ideological – and often hopelessly conflicted – merchants of doubt. They are further out in the cold after today, and the widespread take-up of this report in the press should emphasise to them that their outlandish views are miles away from the established consensus.
So we welcome PHE’s report today as a timely reinforcement of the benefits of vaping to public health, plus an encouragement to the UK government to ignore siren voices and continue along the path laid out in the Tobacco Control Plan for England and the recommendations of the Science and Health Committee in August 2018.
A take-home conclusion of today’s publications is that over half of current smokers believe vaping is equally or more harmful than smoking. It is inconceivable that there should be such damaging information being spread when the potential for the world’s public from harm reduction could be revolutionary if only policymakers were exposed to evidence-led advice like PHE has provided, instead of baseless antiscientific heckling from shady vested interests on the sidelines.
If you are a vaper; a relative of a vaper; a smoker worried about making the switch; or a citizen of any country baffled by conflicting media stories, PHE and fellow weighty public health organisations in the UK did you a favour today on the subject of vaping, and did so on the UK government’s website.
Please share the wisdom widely.