Vaping and public health

In countries where regulators and public health bodies have invested sufficient time researching and debating the science around vaping, many have concluded that vaping is significantly less harmful than smoking and therefore have an important role to play in reducing tobacco-related disease worldwide. In 2015, for example, the UK Government Agency Public Health England concluded that vaping products are 95% less harmful than smoking tobacco – a view supported by numerous other public health and tobacco-control groups, including Action on Smoking and Health UK and Cancer Research UK. Similarly, in France, the High Council on Public Health has endorsed vaping products as a cessation tool, while in Belgium the Superior Health Council has stated that vaping products are a less harmful alternative to tobacco (a position subsequently endorsed by the Health Ministry).

Other large-scale reviews of scientific literature from independent organisations have similarly concluded that vaping products are less harmful than tobacco. The 2014 and 2016 Cochrane Reviews, for instance, found that there is no health risk associated with short and medium-term use of vaping products. All these groups are moving towards a broad scientific consensus that vaping, when compared to conventional tobacco consumption, could present a critical tool in global harm reduction. Importantly, these groups are focusing on the ‘relative risk’ of vaping compared to cigarettes – a very important distinction because nearly all vapers are current or former tobacco users looking for an alternative.

How do I know if e-liquids are safe?

Many public health experts worldwide have concluded that when you smoke tobacco, it is not the nicotine, but rather the other constituents in the tobacco smoke, cause tobacco-related diseases. Vaping products, by contrast, deliver nicotine without the clear majority of these other chemicals, and it is for this reason that organisations such as the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) and the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) have indicated that nicotine-containing vaping products have a role to play in tobacco harm reduction.

The safety profile of nicotine in nicotine-containing products used under normal conditions has been well-established through years of pharmaceutical trials for traditional nicotine replacement therapies. The EUTPD introduces new rules which ensure a minimum standard for the safety and quality of all vaping products and e-liquids. Risk assessments are required to be performed on the ingredients and materials intended for use in vaping products and flavouring ingredients used are guided by strict toxicological principles. Any ingredient that has properties known to be carcinogenic, mutagenic or toxic to reproduction (CMRs) are not used in vaping products.

Who uses vaping devices?

Our research indicates that the majority of our members’ customers are existing adult smokers who choose to vape as an alternative to smoking traditional tobacco products. Vaping devices are not marketed or sold as smoking cessation aids. Vaping devices are intended for use only by adults aged 18 and over.

Is ‘Passive vaping’ harmful?

Evidence about the relative safety of vaping devices compared to combusted tobacco has grown rapidly. There are claims that vaping devices are harmful and these have centred on media headlines about the compounds found in vaping devices.

However, these concerns about ‘passive vaping’ were not shared by the health campaign group ASH, or Public Health England.

In August 2015, Public Health England said, that while vaping may not be 100% safe, most of the chemicals causing smoking-related disease are absent from e-cigarettes “and the chemicals which are present pose limited danger”. Furthermore, it concluded that vaping devices “release negligible levels of nicotine into ambient air with no identified health risks to bystanders”.

It says, based on current evidence, e-cigarettes are around 95% safer than smoking.

It’s also important to remember that vaping in public places boils down to the individual themselves and social etiquette. We want to educate vapers to be more socially responsible to the people around them while vaping.

Can vaping devices help smokers quit?

The number of vapers has risen to 3 million in the UK. More smokers are switching to vaping because they understand the substantiated benefits of vaping, because there are more dedicated vape shops on the high street, and because the products are effective. Vaping devices can play a role in helping people quit and the evidence so far from reputable health organisations shows the positive impact they’ve had on helping people give up smoking. Cancer Research UK has estimated that 18,000 people in England have become “long-term ex-smokers” in 2015 as a result of taking up vaping. Public Health England has identified vaping as 95% safer than tobacco, and the UKVIA is working with regulators and Trading Standards to ensure quality and best practice across the industry.

What is UKVIA doing to safeguard consumers against further instances of exploding products?

Our members provide customers with advice and directions for the proper use of their products. We advise consumers to buy from a reputable source, namely a high-street vaping shop or online retailer. If you have any concerns, talk to a store assistant.

Mechanical mods are a type of vaping device which have no settings or electrical regulation, requiring only a battery and the press of a button to operate. As result, they have the potential to be highly dangerous to those without vaping experience as they lack in-built safety features. We highly advise consumers interested in using mechanical mods to do so only under the advice and guidance of a reputable retailer.

As an Association, we are committed to ensuring the highest product quality. This is a regulated area, and UKVIA are working with regulators to ensure standards are the best they can be.  Trading standards are doing a great job of identifying knock off products, and the industry is working with them to weed these products out.

We advise consumers to check they are using the correct charging plugs with their device, and that they buy their vaping products and batteries from a reputable online retailer or high street store.

It is also important to note that Public Health England have identified vaping as being around 95% safer than the use of conventional tobacco products.

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Do you create or sell vaping products in the UK? We represent vaping industry producers, distributors and vendors in the UK. Should you be a member of UKVIA?
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