IBVTA welcomes Public Health England’s latest evidence update on vaping.
The IBVTA welcome the latest review of the evidence on vaping, commissioned by PHE and carried out by researchers at King’s College London.
Compared to a previous review published in 2018, there is stronger evidence in this year’s report that nicotine vaping products are effective for smoking cessation and reduction. The extensive use of vaping products in quit attempts in comparison with licensed medication suggests vaping products may reach more people who smoke and so have more impact than NRT and varenicline.
Quit rates involving the use of a vaping product were higher than any other method in every region on England. However, it is concerning that an ASH survey of tobacco control leads found that only 11% of local authority stop smoking services offered vaping products to some or all people making a quit attempt.
The IBVTA therefore welcome the report’s recommendation that further research is needed into the barriers and enablers to using vaping products as part of a supported quit attempt in stop smoking services. It is also welcomed that the report’s authors recommend that ‘new and flexible ways of conducting observational studies and RCTs are needed to allow for user experimentation (for example trial and error of different types of vaping products, allowing for changes in preferences over time).’
Despite all the report’s positives, the issue of misperceptions among smokers and the public remain.
“The decline in those believing vaping to be less or equally harmful between 2019 and 2020 matched an increase in the proportion of smokers who did not know whether smoking or vaping was more harmful (18.0% in 2020). This change in perceptions is likely to have been influenced by the ‘EVALI’ outbreak in the US in late 2019 and, to some extent, the COVID-19 pandemic and discussions about any associations between vaping and risk of infection and serious outcomes of infection. A greater emphasis needs to be placed on how to best communicate evidence of relative harm to smokers so that they can consider all the options available to them to quit smoking.’’
Speaking on the launch of the report, Deborah Arnott, CEO of Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) said : “As ASH research included in the report for PHE shows, e-cigarette use among 11 to 18 year olds has to date remained low, but on the downside their potential as an adult quitting aid has not been fully realised.”
While the authors acknowledge that of the very small minority of young people who vape, the vast majority of them report to have been given a vaping product, the IBVTA agrees with the recommendation in the report that enforcement of age of sale regulations for vaping (and smoking) needs to be improved. This is why we have launched our comprehensive Age of Sale Guidance, through our Primary Authority Partnership and made it freely available for all retailers of vaping products.
The authors also note that since non-nicotine containing vaping products may need to be reviewed along with the forthcoming review of nicotine vaping regulations.
Professor John Newton, Director of Health Improvement at PHE, said: “Smoking is still the leading preventable cause of premature death and disease – killing almost 75,000 people in England in 2019. The best thing that a smoker can do is to stop smoking completely and the evidence shows that vaping is one of the most effective quit aids available, helping around 50,000 smokers quit a year.
Thousands more could have quit except for unfounded safety fears about e-cigarettes. The evidence has been clear for some time that, while not risk-free vaping is far less harmful than smoking.
For anyone who smokes, particularly those who have already tried other methods, we strongly recommend they try vaping and stop smoking – ideally with additional support from their local stop smoking service for the very best chance of quitting for good.”
Professor Ann McNeill, Professor of Tobacco Addiction at King’s College London, and lead author of the report said: “Our report draws together findings from randomised controlled trials, stop smoking services and population studies and concludes that nicotine vaping products are an effective way of successfully quitting smoking. What is concerning is that smokers, particularly those from disadvantaged groups, incorrectly and increasingly believe that vaping is as harmful as smoking. This is not true and means fewer smokers try vaping.”
IBVTA Chief Executive Gillian Golden, said: ‘’Once again, we have an independent evidence review which highlights that vaping is safer then smoking and can help those who smoke to quit. It is now incumbent on smoking cessation and public health stakeholders to get that message to smokers. We welcome the Government’s review of current regulations which could empower even more smokers to quit with vaping.
With figures suggesting that the sales of cigarettes have risen during lockdown, our members greatly look forward to being able to reopen their stores and providing the service they are experts in – offering smokers a real and proven effective way out of smoking.’’