Health & Studies

UK Government’s Latest Vaping Report

The final annual update in the current series of evidence reviews about the health harms of vaping, by leading independent tobacco experts, has been released by the UK Government

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The final annual update in the current series of evidence reviews about the health harms of vaping, by leading independent tobacco experts, has been released by the UK Government. “Nicotine vaping in England: an evidence update including health risks and perceptions” covers 400 studies and provides the clearest evidence yet of the reduced harm of vaping compared to smoking.

The UK Government says: “In the government’s tobacco control plan for England, Public Health England was asked to update its 2015 review of e-cigarettes and other novel nicotine delivery systems every year until 2022. In October 2021, responsibility for commissioning this series of reviews was transferred to the Office for Health Improvement and Disparities.

“This report is the eighth and final in the current series and was led by academics at King’s College London with a group of international collaborators. This update is the most comprehensive to date. Its main focus is a systematic review of the evidence on the health risks of nicotine vaping. It also includes recent vaping prevalence data for young people and adults, and looks at flavours, nicotine and people’s perceptions of vaping harm.”

Overall, the team concluded:

  • in the short and medium term, vaping poses a small fraction of the risks of smoking
  • vaping is not risk-free, particularly for people who have never smoked
  • evidence is mostly limited to short and medium term effects and studies assessing longer term vaping (for more than 12 months) are necessary
  • more standardised and consistent methodologies in future studies would improve interpretation of the evidence

They found that smokers who switch tobacco for electronic cigarettes substantially reduce their exposure to cancer causing toxins and reduce their risk of cardiovascular disease and lung disease.

That said, they add that vapers do have an elevated exposure to the chemicals NNK (NNAL) when compared to non-vapers, and these are “powerful pulmonary carcinogens in animals and humans”.

They add that the risks of vaping to the respiratory system are negligeable as they were ranked as being similar to not vaping.

Lead author Professor Ann McNeill told the press conference: “Smoking is uniquely deadly and will kill one in two regular sustained smokers, yet around two-thirds of adult smokers who would really benefit from switching to vaping don’t know that vaping is less harmful.

“However, the evidence we reviewed indicates that vaping is very unlikely to be risk-free. So, we strongly discourage anyone who has never smoked from taking up vaping or smoking.”

Professor McNeill was concerned about reports that around two-thirds of adult smokers are still to be convinced that vaping is less harmful than smoking.

Vaping poses only a small fraction of the risks of smoking in the short to medium term,” she added. “However, this does not mean vaping is risk-free, particularly for people who have never smoked.”

The report

Dave Cross avatar

Dave Cross

Journalist at POTV
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Dave is a freelance writer; with articles on music, motorbikes, football, pop-science, vaping and tobacco harm reduction in Sounds, Melody Maker, UBG, AWoL, Bike, When Saturday Comes, Vape News Magazine, and syndicated across the Johnston Press group. He was published in an anthology of “Greatest Football Writing”, but still believes this was a mistake. Dave contributes sketches to comedy shows and used to co-host a radio sketch show. He’s worked with numerous vape companies to develop content for their websites.

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