How Safe are E-Cigarettes?
The annual Stoptober campaign in England is embracing e-cigarettes, but how safe are they? E-cigarettes proved the most popular tool for quitting during the 2016 campaign. Some 53% of people used them, helping to push the numbers of people taking part in Stoptober since its launch in 2012 to over 1.5 million.
"Less harmful than normal cigarettes."
We've all seen the alarming headlines in the news... “More cancer-causing chemicals found in e-cigarettes”, “Vaping IS a gateway to smoking”, “Belfast woman’s electronic cigarette ‘bursts into flames’”. However, Public Health England concluded that e-cigarettes were 95% less harmful than normal cigarettes.
Cancer Research UK have addressed the following questions:
Are E-Cigarettes safe?
E-cigarettes are almost certainly far less harmful than smoking, as they don’t contain tobacco - the single biggest preventable cause of death worldwide. They do contain nicotine, which is addictive, but isn’t responsible for the major health harms from smoking.
Studies show that people who switch completely from tobacco to e-cigarettes show reduced exposure to the harmful chemicals in tobacco smoke.There remain some questions around long-term safety of these products due to the lack of long-term health studies. Some traces of toxic chemicals have been found in some products, although generally in much lower levels than tobacco cigarettes.
Is passively breathing in vapour from e-cigarettes harmful?
Unlike tobacco smoke, there’s not good evidence to suggest that second-hand e-cigarette vapour is dangerous to others.
Are e-cigarettes a gateway to smoking tobacco?
There are some concerns that e-cigarettes could act as a gateway to young people taking up smoking cigarettes, but so far the evidence does not support this view in the UK. Experimentation with e-cigarettes in ‘never smokers’ remains low and coincides with the continuing decline in youth smoking.
Public Health England commissioned an independent review which was endorsed by the Royal College of Physicians (RCP). They noted that “there is insufficient evidence that e-cigarettes renormalise smoking or act as a gateway to smoking”.
A new study by the UK Centre for Tobacco and Alcohol Studies, PHE, ASH and DECIPHer Centre at the University of Cardiff found that levels of regular vaping in young people who have never smoked remain very low, showing that the majority of young people who experiment with e-cigarettes don’t go on to use them regularly.
The highest rate of regular use of e-cigarettes in young people who had never smoked was 0.5%.
Bauld L, MacKintosh AM, Eastwood B, et al. Young people's use of e-cigarettes across the United Kingdom: findings from five surveys 2015-2017.Int J Environ Res Public Health 2017;14(9):973.