The UK government is promoting vaping as an alternative to cigarette smoking, saying it is 95 percent less harmful, even as authorities in the US take steps to regulate vaping, and amid increasingly negative media coverage and scientific studies.
Public Health England (PHE) is launching its own campaign to promote vaping as a way to quit, or mitigate the harm, of smoking. A short video released by PHE shows a visual comparison of tar from smoking, compared with the small amount of residue from vaping, that collects inside a jar.
“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 safety,” according to PHE Director of Health Improvement Professor John Newton. “This demonstration highlights the devastating harms caused by every cigarette and helps people see that vaping is likely to pose only a fraction of the risk.”
PHE points out that many recent studies on vaping focus on the potential harm, without comparing it to the harm that comes from smoking. One study from Birmingham University in August, for example, focused on the fact that vaping could harm cells in the lungs, urging “cautious skepticism” toward vaping – with little attention paid to the harm that comes from smoking.
Another oft-repeated claim is that vaping causes “popcorn lung,” a condition that arises from a chemical used to flavor popcorn, which is present in e-cigarettes. Yet, the chemical is found at levels 100 times higher in cigarettes.
Such studies have been the focus of media attention recently, as vaping has become more popular.
In the US, studies have shown an increase in vaping among young people, leading to a concerted effort by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to make people more aware of the risks. In November, an FDA proposal moved to ban menthol cigarettes and limit sales of sweet-flavored e-cigarette liquid.
Instead of focusing on how vaping compares to abstaining from tobacco entirely, the PHE campaign emphasizes how vaping can reduce the harm compared to smoking. In one PHE program, as many as 68 percent of those who used e-cigarettes and nicotine replacement therapies together successfully quit smoking.
According to Newton:
“We want to encourage more smokers to try and quit completely with the help of an e-cigarette, or by using other nicotine replacement such as patches or gum, as this will significantly improve their chances of success. If you’re trying to stop smoking, our free online personal quit plan will help you find the support that’s right for you.”