Public Health England calls for more support for vapers
A leading UK public health official has called for more support for people using “the number one quit aid - vaping devices” ahead of the annual “Stoptober” event, urging a rethink of policies in light of the recent re-evaluation of the risks and effectiveness of vaping products.
Professor Kevin Fenton, director of Health and Wellbeing at Public Health England made his statements on BBC radio yesterday while promoting the annual national smoking cessation campaign. Vapor products feature this year for the first time in the Stoptober messaging as an option for smoking cessation.
The UK has now the lowest levels of smoking in postwar history, with the number of smokers this year dropping below 17%. Researchers at University College London showed last week that vaping has been responsible for an additional 18k people stopping smoking over the last year, and market data shows an astonishing 20% fewer cigarettes were sold compared with 2012. Vaping is today practiced by over a million individuals in the UK.
However, mixed messages about safety and effectiveness continue to persist both from the press and from public health groups. Startling evidence from ASH UK (pdf) released in May showed that vaping products were distrusted by the majority of non-smokers and by a great proportion of existing smokers. This year, the European Tobacco Products Directive comes into effect, with a number of restrictions on the products which many commentators and researchers fear will lessen their effectiveness.
Professor Fenton said, on BBC Radio 4's Today programme: “The evidence is evolving and we’re learning more about the efficacy of e-cigs in helping people to quit. We’re also learning more about the safety, especially in the short term, and the reality is that these products are significantly less harmful than smoking and we should be supporting smokers to take advantage of all the choices they have. A lot of policies were developed when we had very little information about the harms of vaping”
The UK is slowly and cautiously developing a joined up strategy which pulls together existing evidence-based treatments offered by the NHS, public messaging and vaping products.
Vaping is a very young industry, having first been marketed in Western nations from 2007. It has proven exceptionally controversial, largely because of having originated outside of the medical sector and because of the tobacco industry’s participation in the market since 2012. The latest evidence should reassure the public that vaping is already having a great positive impact in society and is set to play a huge - perhaps critical - role in the final eradication of the smoking epidemic.