Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) has this week released a briefing for local authorities on youth vaping. This is a timely document which follows a steady stream of alarmist media headlines on the subject in recent weeks. ASH’s briefing, also endorsed by several other public health organisations, offers an objective look at current regulation and the latest evidence on youth vaping data from the most up-to-date surveys.

Most importantly, it debunks some of the many myths seen recently in the media which have been negatively skewing the public’s view of vaping products and how they can continue to contribute positively to public health. The UK is a global leader in recognising the benefits of reduced risk products such as e-cigarettes to help smokers to quit, and we are pleased that ASH has reacted to recent negativity in the news with a calm and balanced set of evidence-based guidelines for local authorities to follow.

evidence board

In particular, ASH’s briefing stresses the key point that “media reports that youth vaping risks becoming a potential ‘public health catastrophe’ leading to a ‘generation hooked on nicotine’ are not substantiated by the evidence.”

Regarding myths carried in the media, ASH is forthright with unequivocal corrective statements, including (emphases by ASH): 

Disposable vapes DO NOT contain as much or more nicotine as a packet of 20 cigarettes. Comparing like with like, a UK standard 2 ml disposable vape contains 40 mg of nicotine, an average pack of 20 cigarettes contains 250 mg of nicotine which is more than six times as much.

There is NOT strong evidence that vaping is a gateway into smoking.

Most young people who try vaping DO NOT get addicted to nicotine. Those who vape are much less likely to be dependent than those who smoke. 

E-cigarettes have been on the market in the UK for 15 years and have been the most popular quitting aid since 2013. During that time vaping has NOT BEEN associated with widespread health problems in the UK.

An outbreak of serious respiratory disease (known as ‘EVALI’) in the US in 2019 WAS NOT caused by vaping nicotine, but by vaping cannabis with vitamin E acetate added to it.

ASH also highlight how anti-vaping propaganda distorts truth in the minds of the public, contrasting the clear messaging being provided in New Zealand with the damaging approach being taken in the US which “led one group of young people to conclude that they would rather be seen smoking than vaping after viewing the campaign.”

Although it is sad that irresponsible media articles should make this exercise in truth-telling necessary, we wholeheartedly welcome ASH’s intervention and hope that local authorities and other organisations take note of the information.

In many other countries, the moral panic over youth vaping has derailed sensible policies towards reduced risk nicotine products to such an extent that the benefits smokers can derive from switching are lessened or eradicated entirely due to restrictions and prohibition.

It is good to see public health organisations in the UK reacting with common sense and reason in setting the record straight, to back up a world-leading UK regulatory recognition of vaping as a valuable means of helping smokers to quit or significantly reduce their harm from combustible tobacco use.

This latest briefing by ASH acts as a helpful resource for rebutting much of the misinformation and inaccurate rhetoric surrounding youth vaping in the UK. You can read the full briefing paper here.