Health & Studies

ASH Acts To Combat Misinformation

Action on Smoking and Health has spoken out to counter misinformation as latest findings show four in ten smokers wrongly believe that vaping is as or more harmful as smoking

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Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) has spoken out to counter misinformation as latest findings show four in ten smokers wrongly believe that vaping is as or more harmful as smoking. The latest ASH annual survey data also shows that in 2023 1.8 million smokers have never tried vaping and 2.9 million smokers have tried vaping but stopped.

Earlier this year the Government announced a national ‘swap to stop’ campaign to offer 1 million smokers a free vaping starter kit together with behavioural support, to help them quit smoking. Vaping combined with behavioural support has been demonstrated to be nearly twice as effective as medicinal nicotine replacement therapy and ASH believes this evidence-based strategy could play a significant role in delivering the government’s smokefree 2030 ambition.
ASH says: “However, the success of ‘swap to stop’ is threatened by growing concerns among smokers that vaping is as or more risky then smoking.
“Among the 1.8 million smokers who are yet to try vaping 43% believe e-cigarettes are as harmful or more than smoking up from 27% in 2019. Among the 2.9 million smokers who have tried vaping but stopped, 44% believe vaping is as harmful or more than smoking up from 25% in 2019. The most accurate risk perceptions are among the 2.7 million ex-smokers who vape and 2.9 million ex-smokers who are ex-vapers, 75% and 45% of whom correctly believe that vaping is less harmful than smoking
Hazel Cheeseman, Deputy Chief Executive of ASH said: “The Government has backed a vaping strategy as its path to reduce rates of smoking, but this approach will be undermined if smokers don’t try vapes due to safety fears or stop vaping too soon and revert to smoking. The Government must act quickly to improve public understanding that vaping poses a fraction of the risk of smoking.
Dr Ruth Sharrock, Clinical Lead for Tobacco Dependency, North East and North Cumbria NHS Integrated Care Board added that vaping was an important tool to support smokers to quit: “When I see patients who smoke they are already sick with smoking-related disease and have often given up hope of ever stopping. Vaping is a valuable tool in our armoury to tackle smoking, particularly for patients who are heavily addicted. However, too many of my patients have seen alarmist media headlines that worry them and put them off giving vaping a go.”
Alongside the 2023 data on adult vaping ASH is publishing a ‘myth buster’ challenging common misrepresentations of the evidence on vaping. This has been developed with the country’s leading experts on smoking and vaping and provides evidence that:

  • Vaping is NOT more harmful than smoking
  • Vaping is NOT more addictive than smoking
  • Vaping is NOT a proven gateway into smoking
  • Nicotine DOES NOT damage young people’s brain development

Professor Ann McNeill, King’s College London, author of Government commissioned review on the harms from vaping and contributor to the ASH myth buster, commented: “Anxiety over youth vaping is obscuring the fact that switching from smoking to vaping will be much better for an individual’s health. It is wrong to say we have no idea what the future risks from vaping will be. On the contrary levels of exposure to cancer causing and other toxicants are drastically lower in people who vape compared with those who smoke, which indicates that any risks to health are likely to be a fraction of those posed by smoking.
“We must not be complacent about youth vaping and further regulation is needed, but so too is work to ensure many more adults stop smoking and vaping is an effective means of doing that’.”

Commenting on whether communicating more accurate perceptions of vaping would further fuel youth vaping Ms Cheeseman added: “It’s not because they think it’s safe that teenagers are experimenting with vaping. Harm perceptions are even more inaccurate among teens than the adult population. They are vaping because products appeal to them and are cheap and easily accessible. Further regulation will be more effective than scare mongering. Worse, if teenagers who experiment with vaping think that smoking is just as bad, then there is a risk they may be more likely to smoke.”

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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