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Public Health England Speaks Out on Ecigs


Ecigarettes - Dispelling the Myths

“Ecigarettes Do Seem to be a Bit Like Marmite, Courting Controversy Among the Public and Media Alike…”


A recent Public Health England ecigarette review on government website Public Health Matters has shown that ecigarettes are responsible for helping 20,000 people each year.

And in a related blog piece Public Health Matters has further sought to clear up myths around ecigarettes.

“Despite the sometimes confused, and confusing, media reporting around the safety of ecigarettes, there is growing consensus around the evidence” the website reports. “While not without some risk, when compared to smoking ecigarettes are far less harmful.”

Public Health Matters has said the review is the ‘latest comprehensive independent ecigarette review and is authored by leading academics in the tobacco control field’. It also looks at the latest international data and peer-reviewed research.

And it claimed that there is a growing consensus around the evidence that although not harm-free, vaping and ecigarettes are ‘far less harmful’. The blog post also refers to media reporting as confused and confusing.

Cancer Research UK, Action on Smoking and Health, the Royal College of Physicians, the British Medical Association and recently and the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine in the US all support the view that ecigarettes are safer than smoking.

Dispelling the Myths

Public Health England recently updated its 2015 review that found ecigarettes were 95% safer than smoking.  The main findings of the latest review are:


  • vaping poses only a small fraction of the risks of smoking and switching completely from smoking to vaping conveys substantial health benefits
  • ecigarettes could be contributing to at least 20,000 successful new quits per year and possibly many more
  • ecigarette 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 ecigarette
  • 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 ecigarettes in the UK has plateaued over the last few years at just under 3 million
  • the evidence does not support the concern that ecigarettes are a route into smoking among young people (youth smoking rates in the UK continue to decline, regular use is rare and is almost entirely confined to those who have smoked)


But the latest article sought to specifically dispel any myths that have come from a lack of understanding and confused media reporting.  It listed the following myths...


MYTH 1 -  Ecigarettes give you ‘popcorn lung’


In the bad old days some eliquids  contained Diacetyl, which when heated and in very high levels, causes bronchiolitis obliterans.  It’s called Popcorn Lung because it was first observed in popcorn factories. 

Diacetyl is banned in eliquid in the UK. 


MYTH 2  - Ecigarettes aren’t regulated and we don’t know what’s in them


The UK has strict regulation for ecigarettes.  Under the Tobacco and Related Products Regulations 2016, (also known as the TPD) ecigarette products are subject to minimum standards of quality and safety. There are also legal packaging and labelling requirements to provide vapers with information.


MYTH 3 - Ecigarettes must be harmful as they contain nicotine


People become addicted to cigarettes thanks to nicotine, but it’s the tar and thousands of other chemicals that cause the harm.  There’s no tar or carbon monoxide in ecigarettes.


MYTH 4 - Exposure to ecigarette vapour is harmful to bystanders


Public Health England’s latest review has found no evidence of health risks to bystanders although people with asthma or respiratory issues may find vape irritating to their condition.


MYTH 5 - Ecigarettes will lead young people into smoking


The Public Health England report found no evidence to support the idea that ecigarettes cause young people to take up smoking. Smoking rates among young people in the UK continue to fall, and while some are experimenting with ecigarettes it is mostly those who are smokers already and regular use is rare.


MYTH 6 - Ecigarettes are being used as a Trojan horse – so the tobacco industry can keep people smoking 


The evidence suggests the opposite and PHE says there is no evidence that ecigarettes are keeping people smoking and of the nearly three million adult ecigarette users in the UK, more than half have completely stopped smoking.


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