Mr and Mrs Ninety-Five Percent

Posted 19th August 2015 by Dave Cross
Cup your ear close to the screen as you read this. Can you hear it? Can you? That is the sound of a fanfare playing. Public Health England (PHE) released a report this morning looking at all aspects of electronic cigarettes and vaping. The report’s authors are strident in their opinion that ecigs are 95% safer than smoking, a conclusion that has been embraced and shared by PHE.

Professor Ann McNeil and Professor Peter Hajek carried out PHE’s investigation. In the press release accompanying the report, they state that the decline in smoking is in part down to the success of vaping and that the key findings are:

  • The current best estimate is that e-cigarettes are around 95% less harmful than smoking
  • Nearly half the population (44.8%) don’t realise e-cigarettes are much less harmful than smoking
  • There is no evidence so far that e-cigarettes are acting as a route into smoking for children or non-smokers

In the report, they write: “almost all of the 2 Million adults using e-cigarettes in Great Britain are current or ex-smokers, most of whom are using the devices to help them quit smoking or to prevent them going back to cigarettes. It also provides reassurance that very few adults and young people who have never smoked are becoming regular e-cigarette users (less than 1% in each group).”

The findings crush arguments put forward by Glantz, the University of Southern California and the World Health Organisation. In fact, the biggest concern about the potential for ecigs is that “increasing numbers of people think e-cigarettes are equally or more harmful than smoking.”

Despite the findings, A Welsh Government spokesperson said: “We are concerned the use of e-cigarettes may renormalise smoking, especially for a generation who have grown up in a largely smoke-free society. We are not alone in our concerns - the World Health Organisation and other international bodies have called for greater regulation of e-cigarettes and 40 other countries have already taken similar steps.” It is possible the spokesperson had their head buried in sand while releasing the statement.

Professor Kevin Fenton, Director of Health and Wellbeing at Public Health England said: “E-cigarettes are not completely risk free but when compared to smoking, evidence shows they carry just a fraction of the harm. The problem is people increasingly think they are at least as harmful and this may be keeping millions of smokers from quitting. Local stop smoking services should look to support e-cigarette users in their journey to quitting completely.”

Looking to the future, the organisation says: “PHE’s ambition is to secure a tobacco-free generation by 2025. Based on the evidence, we believe e-cigarettes have the potential to make a significant contribution to the endgame for tobacco.  With opportunity comes risk, and a successful approach will be one that retains vigilance and manages these risks, while enabling a flourishing and innovative market with a range of safe and effective products that smokers want to use to help them quit.”


Further coverage and quotes can be found on the Reuters and the BBC websites.

 Dave Cross
Article by Dave Cross
Freelance writer, physicist, karateka, motorbikes, and dog walker