UK Government reassures citizens regarding e-cigarettes after North American EVALI cases spook the public

Hamilton, Ontario, CANADA

Hamilton, ON, April 30, 2020 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- The UK has been a world leader in vaping research and progressive regulations which support e-cigarette use as a smoking cessation tool. The Royal College of Physicians was the first to conclude that vaping is at least 95 percent less harmful than traditional combustible tobacco. The UK Government embraced this data and created a regulatory framework to support e-cigarettes as a pathway to quit smoking.

The North American EVALI outbreak has shifted the UK’s public perception of vaping. Now almost half of the UK’s population views e-cigarettes as more harmful than smoking. The UK released its 6th annual independent report, “A Tobacco Control Plan for England”. Following the report is a statement reassuring the public that vaping is still at least 95 percent less harmful than smoking.

“The mistaken belief that e-cigarettes are more harmful than smoking increased rapidly among UK smokers following the US lung injury outbreak in autumn 2019. US authorities have now confirmed that vitamin E acetate, a thickening agent added to cannabis vaping products, was a primary cause of the US outbreak. This substance is banned from UK-regulated nicotine vaping products,” said Public Health England.

As a Canadian organization, reading the report gave us hope that our Government will follow the lead of the UK. The difference in attitude towards e-cigarettes and the compassion showed to smokers is something that has yet to be seen broadly in Canada. The UK’s plan is evidence based and provides real support for smokers looking to quit. We hope that Canadian policy makers takes note of the differences in regulation and soon sees vaping as the unprecedented harm reduction tool that it is.

Not only has the UK Government supported vaping as a harm reduction tool, but they have reviewed the science to conclude that second-hand vapour is not harmful. Vapers are not being sent to smoking areas to be surrounded by second-hand smoke and temptation. The UK has advised that vaping policies not be grouped with smoking policies and is working with employers to set sensible guidelines for vaping.

“The best thing a smoker can do for their health is to quit smoking. However, the evidence is increasingly clear that e-cigarettes are significantly less harmful to health than smoking tobacco. The government will seek to support consumers in stopping smoking and adopting the use of less harmful nicotine products. Public Health England has produced guidance for employers and organisations looking to introduce policies around e-cigarettes and vaping in public and recommend such policies to be evidence-based. PHE recommends that e-cigarette use is not covered by smokefree legislation and should not routinely be included in the requirements of an organisation’s smokefree policy,” said Public Health England.

The Tobacco Control Plan for England highlights a considerable decrease in smoking rates over the last year but notes there is still a lot of work to be done to achieve a smoke free generation. The report credits vaping as having played a significant role in the dramatic smoking rate decline, stating that “in 2016 it was estimated that 2 million consumers in England had used these products and completely stopped smoking and a further 470,000 were using them as an aid to stop smoking.”

While North America struggles to curb youth vaping uptake, the UK’s report concludes that youth vaping rates have remained the same, and youth smoking rates have declined. This variance is a result of UK’s science based and harm reduction focused policies. The UK has framed vaping as a harm reduction tool for smokers and limited nicotine to 20mg/ml. This limit on nicotine has prevented tobacco owned brands with high nicotine concentrations from entering the space. As such, youth have not been exposed to National brand campaigns and the limit on nicotine concentrations has also prevented youth from chasing a “nicotine buzz”.

The tobacco control plans and science coming out of the UK should be utilized by other governments around the world to develop sensible, evidence-based regulations. The data cannot be ignored; vaping is at least 95 percent less harmful than smoking and supporting vaping as a cessation method produces dramatic decreases in smoking rates as well as smoking related illnesses and deaths.


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