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Ecig Update For Parliament

The Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology updates the official information on electronic cigarettes.

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The Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology (POST) produces independent, balanced and accessible briefings on public policy issues related to science and technology. POSTnote 533 updates POSTnote 455 (January 2014), summarising the latest data on scale of use, safety and quality of electronic cigarettes, and their value as a stop smoking tool. It also explores the implications of the new EU Tobacco Products Directive and regulatory approaches in the UK.

POST introduces the subject by stating: “E-cigarette use has increased rapidly in recent years with nearly 3m users in the UK. There is on-going debate over whether e-cigarettes are harmful or beneficial to public health. Advocates emphasise evidence pointing to lower health risks than from smoking tobacco and for their value as a tool to help people stop smoking.”

The update crushes any supposed suggestion that vaping causes a gateway effect by pointing out that smoking prevalence has declined across all age groups since surveys began in 1974, and is thought to reflect fewer people taking up smoking rather than increased quit rates. It emphasises the pressing need for a pro-active approach, not just in combatting premature deaths from smoking, but also by highlighting that smoking costs the NHS in England around £2bn per year. Of course, this is tempered by the knowledge that tobacco revenue currently runs at £9.5bn during the 2015-16 financial year.

  • ASH’s annual survey estimates that there are 2.8m people (‘vapers’) using e-cigarettes.
  • 98% of whom are current or ex-smokers.
  • Use trebled from 700,000 in 2012 to 2.1m in 2014, then slowed to fewer than 1m new users between 2014 and 2016.
  • Vaping is evenly distributed across age groups, slightly more popular among women and higher socio-economic groups.
  • 61% of smokers (up from 22% in 2012), and 19% of ex- 
smokers (11% in 2012) have tried an e-cigarette.
  • 19% of smokers (up from 4% in 2012), and 8% of ex- 
smokers (1% in 2012) currently vape.
  • 46% of smokers who currently vape and 65% of ex- 
smokers who currently vape have been using e-cigarettes 
for over a year.
  • 5% of 11 year olds and 26% of 16 year olds have tried an 
e-cigarette. Regular use by children is rare and almost entirely confined to those who have already used tobacco.

The report raises concerns about the increasing levels of ignorance regarding the perceived dangers of vaping: “25% of the UK public think that e-cigarettes present a risk of harm similar to that of tobacco smoking, compared with 7% in 2013”. This is of especial concern with smokers – the numbers who believe vaping is as harmful or more dangerous than smoking has increased.

Regarding the actual danger, the report confirms: “The amount of chemicals inhaled, rather than their presence alone, is the important determinant of toxicity, and current data suggest that the levels of toxins and contaminants within inhaled vapour do not pose significant health risks”.

The full report can be downloaded here.

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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