More than half of British smokers now wrongly believe that nicotine-containing vapes, or e-cigarettes, are as dangerous as tobacco cigarettes and these “false fears” are preventing smokers from switching, UK public health experts said yesterday.
In a report commissioned by Public Health England (PHE), scientists at King’s College London said the mistaken belief that e-cigarettes are more harmful than smoking had gained ground rapidly following thousands of reported cases of lung injury in the US late last year.
However, the belief is “out of line” with expert reviews from the UK and US concluding that using regulated nicotine vaping products is far less harmful than smoking, they said.
The report, the sixth by PHE on the issue of e-cigarettes, is likely to deepen divisions in opinion about the potential risks of the products.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last month said that it had recorded more than 2,800 cases of lung injury linked to vaping.
“It is concerning to see how much the US lung disease outbreak has affected smokers’ views on e-cigarettes here in the UK,” PHE director of health improvement John Newton said. “Safety fears may well be deterring many smokers from switching, leaving them on a path to years of ill health and an early death due to their smoking.”
Health authorities in the US have said that vitamin E acetate, a thickening agent added to cannabis vaping products, is likely the primary cause of the US outbreak.
The substance is banned from UK-regulated nicotine vapes and e-cigarettes.
The PHE report reiterated the agency’s view that “e-cigarettes are much less harmful than tobacco, but are not completely safe.”
“They contain significantly less harmful chemicals which cause diseases related to smoking, but the long-term impact of using e-cigarettes will remain unknown for some time,” a summary of the report said.
It added that any British move to ban the use of flavors in regulated vaping products, as the US has done, would deter smokers from switching and would “ultimately cost lives.”
The US government has proposed a sweeping ban on all e-cigarette and vaping flavors that are seen as attracting young users to the products.
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