IBVTA welcomes new OHID evidence review on vaping
The IBVTA welcomes the latest review of the evidence on vaping, commissioned by the Office for Health Improvement and Disparities, and carried out by researchers at King’s College London.
The independent evidence review, conducted by the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience (IoPPN) at King’s College London, looks at a range of types of evidence, including the absolute and relative effects of vaping compared to smoking, who is vaping, and what kinds of products they use.
The strongest evidence, and where there was a greater volume of research, came from biomarkers of exposure. Looking at the available studies, they found that levels of tobacco specific nitrosamines, volatile organic compounds and other toxicants implicated in the main diseases caused by smoking were found at significantly lower levels in vapers.
It also found no significant increase of toxicant biomarkers after short-term second-hand exposure to vaping among people who do not smoke or vape. This strengthens the position taken by owners and managers of public spaces who do not treat vaping in the same way as smoking, given the lack of evidence of harm.
The report highlights just how far public perceptions lag behind the evidence. In 2021, only 34% of adults who smoked accurately perceived that vaping was less harmful than smoking, while only 11% of adult smokers knew that nicotine wasn’t the primary cause of the health risks connected to smoking tobacco.
The authors warn of potential consequences of messaging to young people, and state:
“Interventions on absolute harms of vaping that aim to deter young people need to be carefully designed so they do not misinform people (particularly smokers) about the relative harms of smoking and vaping.”
In its section on the implications for policy, the report states that cuts to government bodies responsible for overseeing vaping products are concerning. “The recent increase in young people using disposable vaping products makes this an even greater concern, because if it continues, it could undermine the approach and regulatory framework for vaping products adopted in England.”
This is something the IBVTA takes very seriously, and we will continue to call for more funding and resources for enforcement of product and age of sale regulations while educating businesses on their responsibilities to uphold the law.
Overall, the report concludes:
“Based on the reviewed evidence, we believe that the ‘at least 95% less harmful’ estimate remains broadly accurate, at least over short term and medium term periods. However, it might now be more appropriate and unifying to summarise our findings using our other firm statement: that vaping poses only a small fraction of the risks of smoking. As we have also previously stated and reiterate, this does not mean vaping is risk-free, particularly for people who have never smoked.”
Dr Debbie Robson, a Senior Lecturer in Tobacco Harm Reduction King’s IoPPN and one of the report’s authors said, “The levels of exposure to cancer causing and other toxicants are drastically lower in people who vape compared with those who smoke. Helping people switch from smoking to vaping should be considered a priority if the Government is to achieve a smoke-free 2030 in England.”
Deborah Arnott, chief executive of Action on Smoking and Health (ASH), said: “The Government has now published five independent reports which together provide the best available evidence to underpin the UK’s policies on vaping. With Stoptober just starting, it’s important that smokers are aware that the evidence is clear that vaping poses a small fraction of the risk of smoking.”
Gillian Golden, CEO of the IBVTA said, “Our industry needs to continue to uphold the high standards that have made the UK a world leader in vaping and tobacco harm reduction. At the same time it must do everything it can to prevent underage sales. For adult smokers, the message is clear. Vaping offers smokers a real and proven effective way out of smoking and represents just a small fraction of the risk.”