Public Health England (PHE) has today published an update to their 2015 report on vaping. Led by Ann McNeill, Professor of Tobacco Addiction at King's College London, the authors conclude that:
• Vaping poses only a small fraction of the risks of smoking and switching completely from smoking to vaping conveys substantial health benefits;
• Vaping could be contributing to at least 20,000 successful new quits per year and possibly many more;
• Vaping is associated with improved quit success rates over the last year and an accelerated drop in smoking rates across the country;
• Many thousands of smokers incorrectly believe that vaping is as harmful as smoking; around 40% of smokers have not even tried a vape product;
• Less than 10% of adults understand that most of the harms to health from smoking are not caused by nicotine;
• Vaping in the UK has plateaued over the last few years at just under 3 million;
• The evidence does not support the concern that vaping is a route into smoking among young people. Youth smoking rates in the UK continue to decline. Regular use is rare and is almost entirely confined to those who have smoked.
The Independent British Vape Trade Association (IBVTA) welcomes PHE’s evidence review, the latest in a long line of authoritative reports which support vaping as a significantly less harmful alternative to smoking and which debunk common myths surrounding their use and safety.
It is particularly important that PHE has recognised that further research should specifically assess the impact of the EU Tobacco Products Directive, given the impact these regulations have had on the independent vape industry. Reputable businesses are suffering as a direct consequence of leniency and inaction when it comes to enforcement, with IBVTA members sales down an average of 24 per cent since May 2017.
Unlike traditional cessation methods, vaping is empowering. It represents a market-based, user driven, public health insurgency. That is why it is so successful. No taxpayers’ money has been spent, yet smokers are stopping, switching, and cutting down through the use of vape products. Every day IBVTA members are helping people switch from smoking to vaping. As Professor Riccardo Polosa, Director of the Institute for Internal and Emergency Medicine of the University of Catania in Italy, has said: “A very good vape shop employee can be better than a trained smoking cessation counsellor.”
The experience of IBVTA members across the UK is that the smokers who do the best, in terms of cutting down or switching completely, are the smokers who take personal responsibility for their own start-up costs. They feel empowered because they have done it themselves and are therefore more likely to persevere with vaping. The IBVTA accepts that in certain specific circumstances it would be sensible for a local Stop Smoking Service to provide vouchers to cover the start-up costs of vaping.
The IBVTA now calls on those still sceptical about vaping to take a note of the report, especially the recommendation that smokers who may have previously been put off trying vaping because of fears surrounding their safety, should be encouraged and supported to make the switch.
Fraser Cropper, Chairman of the IBVTA, said:
"The ability of vaping to transform the public health landscape is routinely undermined by the repetition of irresponsible reporting which ignores the relative risk of vaping and smoking. We welcome this updated evidence review from Public Health England which re-enforces the harm reduction potential and public health gains which can only be realised if smokers are given accurate information about vaping.
We especially welcome the report’s recommendation that further research should specifically assess the impact of the EU Tobacco Products Directive on consumers and the independent vape sector, free from any links to the tobacco industry, who introduced vaping to the UK and who continue to run the overwhelming majority of vape businesses in this country, as well as their customers.’’
Ian Green, Owner of Southampton Vaping Centre and Chairman of the IBVTA Vendors Committee concluded:
“As the owner of a high street vape shop I know only too well the importance of this new PHE report. Health matters to everyone, so when it comes to considering switching from smoking to vaping, this new report from PHE is massively influential. Misinformation has hindered so many smokers over recent years, so we hope this update provides confidence and helps to allay fears created by the reporting of junk science and other hidden agendas.
We are fortunate in the UK to not only have a responsible public health body in PHE, but we also have an independent vape industry that seeks to continually raise the bar where producing quality products is the main focus.’’