The review, commissioned by Public Health England, shows nearly half the population (44.8%) don’t realise e-cigarettes or vapes are much less harmful than smoking compared with the best expert estimate that they are likely to be at least 5% less harmful to smokers than conventional tobacco.
The research was authored by Professor Ann McNeill, Dr Leonie Brose, Robert Calder, and Dr Sara Hitchman of the National Addiction Centre at King’s College London with additional chapters by Professor Peter Hajek and Dr Hayden McRobbie from Queen Mary University of London.
The report found that almost all of the 2.6 million adults using e-cigarettes in Great Britain – one in 20 of the population – are current or ex-smokers, most of whom are using the devices to help them quit smoking or to prevent them going back to cigarettes. 80% of smokers believe e-cigarettes are a good way of quitting smoking.
Professor Ann McNeill from King’s said: ‘There is no evidence that e-cigarettes are undermining England’s falling smoking rates. Instead the evidence consistently finds that e-cigarettes are another tool for stopping smoking and in my view smokers should try vaping and vapers should stop smoking cigarettes entirely. E-cigarettes could be a game changer in public health in particular by reducing the enormous health inequalities caused by smoking.’
Dr Leonie Brose said: ‘Smokers who have tried other methods of quitting without success could be encouraged to try e-cigarettes to stop smoking and stop smoking services should support smokers using e-cigarettes to quit by offering them behavioural support.
‘Encouraging smokers who cannot or do not want to stop smoking to switch to e-cigarettes could help reduce smoking related disease, death and health inequalities. Indeed there is also evidence that e-cigarettes can encourage quitting or cigarette consumption reduction even among those not intending to quit or rejecting other support, however more research is needed in this area.’
The report added that since e-cigarettes were introduced to the market, cigarette smoking among adults and youth has declined and in adults, overall nicotine use has also declined. Despite some experimentation with e-cigarettes among never smokers, they are attracting very few people who have never smoked into regular use. The data revealed that use of e-cigarettes among youth is rare with around 2% using at least monthly and 0.5% weekly.
Overall, the findings suggest that the advent of e-cigarettes is not undermining the continuing decline in cigarette smoking.
Professor Peter Hajek, Queen Mary University London said: ‘My reading of the evidence is that smokers who switch to vaping remove almost all the risks smoking poses to their health. Smokers differ in their needs and I would advise them not to give up on e-cigarettes if they do not like the first one they try. It may take some experimentation with different products and e-liquids to find the right one.’
Notes to editors
‘E-cigarettes: an evidence update’ McNeill A, Brose LS, Calder R, Hitchman SC (2015)
Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience, National Addiction Centre, King’s College LondonUK Centre for Tobacco & Alcohol Studies
Hajek P, McRobbie H (Authors of Chapters 9 and 10)
Wolfson Institute of Preventive Medicine Barts and The London School of Medicine and Dentistry Queen Mary, University of London
UK Centre for Tobacco & Alcohol Studies
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