PHE Smokefree Campaign

Posted 2nd January 2019 by Dave Cross
Public Health England (PHE) has launched the seventh version of its Smokefree Health Harms campaign. The campaign centres on a video by Dr Lion Shahab, demonstrating the clear benefits of switching to vaping or quitting altogether. PHE reiterates the fact that vaping is demonstrably safer than smoking.

Resources for the campaign can be found at the Campaign Resource Centre. The organisation repeats the statement that that vaping is 95% less harmful than smoking tobacco products.

The video demonstrates the accumulation of sticky black tar that enters the airways and lungs when smoking. Then this is compared to the cotton wool exposed to vapour.

Professor John Newton said: “It would be tragic if thousands of smokers who could quit with the help of an e-cigarette are being put off due to false fears about safety. We need to reassure smokers that switching to an e-cigarette would be much less harmful than smoking. This demonstration highlights the devastating harms caused by every cigarette and helps people see that vaping is likely to pose only a fraction of the risk.”

PHE’s Martin Dockrell told journalists that there are many “misleading” and “contradictory” stories surrounding vaping: “People don’t know who to believe and they believe the thing that suits them best. The evidence is clear that e-cigarettes are far less harmful than smoking and they are the most popular quitting method in England. When paired with local stop-smoking services, they have some of the highest success rates."

University College London’s Lion Shahab said: “The false belief that vaping is as harmful as smoking could be preventing thousands of smokers from switching to e-cigarettes to help them quit. I hope this illustrative experiment helps people see the huge damage caused by smoking that could be avoided by switching to an e-cigarette. Research we and others have conducted shows that vaping is much less harmful than smoking and that using e-cigarettes on a long-term basis is relatively safe, similar to using licensed nicotine products, like nicotine patches or gum. Using e-cigarettes or nicotine replacement such as patches or gum will boost your chances of quitting successfully.”

Deborah Arnott of ASH UK commented: “If you're one of the 40% of smokers who haven't tried ecigs and can't quit  - switch to vaping today  - its safer cheaper and can increase your chances of stopping smoking successfully.”

Clive Bates congratulated ASH for the comment and added: “I'd add that if you are smoker and have tried vaping but it didn't work out, then have another go - the products get better and easier all the time. Visit a vape shop try it and get some advice. There's almost nothing to lose, but so very much to gain.”

UK Vaping Industry Association’s John Dunne said: “This is fantastic news going into the new year when many people in this country are looking to quit smoking and improve their health. This further goes to support the positive vaping narrative that this country is lucky to have and I hope it will assist smokers in making an informed decision.”

“Vaping is fast becoming the most popular quitting aid in the UK and around the world. However, according to the latest ASH research 40% of smokers have not tried them. There is a serious public misunderstanding of the risks and benefits of e-cigarette use.”

“Millions of smokers wrongly think that vaping is as harmful as smoking and fewer than one in ten adults know that most of the health damage caused by smoking comes from the by-products of cigarette combustion, and not from the nicotine content. In 2017 only 13% of adults correctly identified that e-cigarettes are much less harmful than smoking, compared to 21% in 2013. The proportion of adults thinking that e-cigarettes are at least as dangerous as smoking nearly quadrupled from 2013 to 2017 from 7% to 26%. I hope that this experiment will go some way to dispelling this false notion.”

Marking a dramatic shift in opinion, the British Medical Association board of science chair, Prof. Dame Parveen Kumar, said: “This experiment highlights the growing consensus that e-cigarettes are significantly less harmful than smoking tobacco and provides a useful reference point to inform those who are planning to quit.”

“While the safest option remains to smoke neither tobacco nor use e-cigarettes, there is no situation in which it is safer to continue smoking than to use an e-cigarette.”

Alison Cook, Director of Policy at the British Lung Foundation, also added: “We know that many people have used e-cigarettes to help them quit the much more harmful practice of smoking, so more must be done to dispel the belief amongst some smokers that vaping is as harmful as smoking. Given half of long-term smokers die as a result of their addiction, vaping to help give up could literally save their life.”

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