Cancer Research UK has provided timely clarity about electronic cigarettes as the government considers how to change how we regulate them.
Cancer Research UK (CRUK) has advocated the use of e-cigarettes for a number of years. Now, as the government is considering how vape legislation might be changed, the body details precisely what we do and don’t know about e-cigarettes.
CRUK notes that as vaping became a modern phenomenon, disrupting the tobacco market and driving smokers to quit, the debate surrounding e-cigs and tobacco harm reduction became more polarised. All too often, we have seen facts distorted or ignored if they don’t agree with the entrenched positions of those ideologically opposed to vaping.
Its timely intervention begins with a simple, clear statement: “The big selling point for e-cigarettes is they are a way to help people stop smoking and reduce harm from the biggest cause of cancer in the world, tobacco.”
CRUK does warn that as e-liquid contains nicotine, only smokers should consider using them.
Linda Bauld, frequently seen on television commenting on COVID issues and CRUK’s prevention adviser commented, “These are still relatively new products. But a huge amount of research has been done. It’s a far more sophisticated discussion now than it was in the early years.”
Is Vaping Safe?
CRUK says 12,000 of us in the UK Google whether vaping is safe or not every month. It says this is understandable because “there are a lot of mixed messages out there”.
CRUK states: “Research shows that vaping is far less harmful than smoking.”
The organisation adds that what you hear depends on where you live. The example it gives is that of the lung disease outbreak in the United States that was blamed on e-cigarettes.
CRUK states: “Headlines can be misleading, as these cases were due to contaminants in illegal products and not linked to regular vaping. There was no similar outbreak in the UK, and the chemicals of concern are banned.”
They cite one study which found “significantly lower levels of exposure to harmful chemicals in people who switch from smoking to vaping”, compared with those who continued to smoke. CRUK says the levels detected in vapers were similar to those found in people using traditional nicotine replacement therapy products.
“There’s also no good evidence that second-hand e-cigarette vapour is harmful to bystanders,” it adds.
Talking about personal risk, CRUK notes that research is ongoing into long-term vaping and it’s difficult to unpick any noted negative impacts because almost everybody who vapes is an ex-smoker and has accumulated however many years of risk from that practice.
It clearly states: “What researchers have had time to observe, over decades, is the huge amounts of research showing that tobacco is extremely harmful. This is why experts can be confident that e-cigarettes are far less harmful than tobacco. This is broadly agreed by researchers and public health bodies.”
Do e-cigarettes help people to stop smoking?
Cancer Research UK says: “There’s growing evidence from around the world that e-cigarettes can help people stop smoking. In England, a study that looked at e-cigarette use and smoking cessation across the population estimated that e-cigarettes helped an additional 18,000 people in England in 2015 to quit for the long term.”
Is there a gateway effect from vaping into smoking for young people?
Again, CRUK offers clarity: “There’s no strong evidence for a gateway effect in the UK. Although experimentation with e-cigarettes among young people has increased in recent years, regular vaping in young people in the UK remains very low. In a representative survey of 11 to 18 year-olds in Great Britain in 2020, out of 1,926 never smokers, not a single person reported vaping daily.”
Does Cancer Research UK have a recommendation?
Yes.“There’s a lot we still need to know, but the evidence has come a long way so far. And all this evidence is why at Cancer Research UK, we recommend people who smoke consider using e-cigarettes as an option to help them quit, but why we would discourage people who have never smoked from starting to vape.”