NHS Report On E-Cigs

A new report from the U.K. finds there is no harm in passive vaping— and it’s a message the industry on both sides of the pond needs to hear.

“For decades, most of us have thought the same way about cigarettes,” the news site www.news. com.au in Australia recently reported. “But a new report could change all that.”

Indeed, the U.K.’s National Health Service (NHS) has found that e-cigarettes are actually saving thousands of lives each year.

“Not only did the report conclude that vaping poses only a small fraction of the risks of smoking and switching completely from smoking to vaping conveys substantial health benefits,” the site reports, “but it found that ‘there have been no identified health risks of passive vaping to bystanders.’ That’s right; those big clouds of smoke you see spewing out of electronic cigarettes are, in fact, safe.”


The new Public Health England (PHE) e-cigarette evidence review, undertaken by leading independent tobacco experts, covers e-cigarette use among young people and adults, public attitudes, the impact on quitting smoking, an update on risks to health and the role of nicotine. It also reviews heated tobacco products. Its main findings include:

• Vaping poses only a small fraction of the risks of smoking, and switching completely from smoking to vaping conveys substantial health benefits.

• Electronic cigarettes could be contributing to at least 20,000 successful new quits per year and possibly many more.

• E-cigarette use 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 an e-cigarette.

• There is much public misunderstanding about nicotine (less than 10% of adults understand that most of the harms to health from smoking are not caused by nicotine).

• The use of e-cigarettes in the U.K. has plateaued over the last few years at just under three million.

• The evidence does not support the concern that e-cigarettes are a route into smoking among young people (youth smoking rates in the U.K. continue to decline, regular use is rare and is almost entirely confined to those who have smoked).

As PHE makes clear in its public statement, the evidence review comes just a few weeks after a U.S. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine report on ecigarettes. “Their conclusion on e-cigarette safety also finds that based on the available evidence, ‘e-cigarettes are likely to be far less harmful than combustible tobacco cigarettes.’”

Professor John Newton, Director for Health Improvement at PHE, said that “Every minute someone is admitted to hospital from smoking, with around 79,000 deaths a year in England alone. Our new review reinforces the finding that vaping is a fraction of the risk of smoking, at least 95% less harmful, and of negligible risk to bystanders. Yet over half of smokers either falsely believe that vaping is as harmful as smoking or just don’t know.”

Newton added, “It would be tragic if thousands of smokers who could quit with the help of an e-cigarette are being put off due to false fears about their safety.”

Professor Ann McNeill, lead author and Professor of Tobacco Addiction at King’s College London, said, “It’s of great concern that smokers still have such a poor understanding about what causes the harm from smoking. When people smoke tobacco cigarettes, they inhale a lethal mix of 7,000 smoke constituents, 70 of which are known to cause cancer.

“People smoke for the nicotine,” McNeill continued, “but contrary to what the vast majority believe, nicotine causes little if any of the harm. The toxic smoke is the culprit and is the overwhelming cause of all the tobacco-related disease and death. There are now a greater variety of alternative ways of getting nicotine than ever before, including nicotine gum, nasal spray, lozenges and e-cigarettes.”

Professor Linda Bauld, author and Professor of Health Policy, University of Stirling and Chair in Behavioural Research for Cancer Prevention, Cancer Research U.K., was also quoted in the release. “Concern has been expressed that e-cigarette use will lead young people into smoking. But in the U.K., research clearly shows that regular use of e-cigarettes among young people who have never smoked remains negligible, less than 1%, and youth smoking continues to decline at an encouraging rate. We need to keep closely monitoring these trends, but so far the data suggest that e-cigarettes are not acting as a route into regular smoking amongst young people.”

PHE is calling on smokers and a number of bodies to act on the evidence.