Last January, Public Health England (PHE), the UK health organization renowned for its progressive stance in relation to harm reduction, has released footage from an experiment indicating the devastating harm caused by smoking, and how this can be avoided or minimized by switching to safer NRTs such as vaporizers.

In 2018 400,000 people gave up smoking in England, which leaves 6.1 million smokers, or 14.9% of the population,

The release of this film was part of PHE‘s Health Harms campaign, which encouraged smokers to try quitting. It featured health experts Dr Lion Shahab and Dr Rosemary Leonard, carrying out an experiment that demonstrates the significant levels of cancer-causing chemicals and tar inhaled by an average smoker over a month, when compared to a non-smoker or a vaper.

According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), last year alone, 400,000 people gave up smoking in England, which leaves 6.1 million smokers, or 14.9% of the population. That’s down from a 15.5% rate in 2016 and 19.8% in 2011, and vaping products are believed to have played a major role in this significant drop.

Based on these data, the PHE has predicted that in five years only one in 10 English people will smoke, between 8.5% and 11.7%, and that Britain could be a smoke-free society by 2030.

The flavours dilemma

In line with findings by numerous studies, the PHE is in favour with the use of flavoured vaping products, as they are known to encourage smokers make the transition from deadly cigarettes to the safer alternatives. However, a leading European expert on tobacco control disagrees, saying that flavours lure children into vaping.

“THE UK BOASTS 1.7 MILLION FORMER SMOKERS WHO HAVE CONVERTED FROM SMOKING TO EXCLUSIVELY VAPING INSTEAD.”

Prof Charlotta Pisinger, is the chair of the European Respiratory Society Tobacco Control Committee, an international coalition of doctors and scientists, whose research has been shared with the European parliament. “In Europe we have banned flavours from cigarettes because we know it attracts young people to smoking,” she said. “Cigarettes should taste like cigarettes not like candy. E-cigarettes taste like candy and, frequently, we see in small shops where they are sold, e-cigarettes on one side and candy on the other. Of course it attracts children.”

Pisinger added that she is in “no doubt” that flavours should be banned. “I know opponents will say flavours are essential because there will be heavy smokers who want to quit with e-cigarettes and they will not find it as attractive, but we have to think about the new generation of young people so that they don’t get addicted to these products. It is much more important that we don’t experience a new epidemic of e-cigarettes. We know there is substantial evidence that use of e-cigarettes increases the risk of smoking conventional cigarettes. So it will also kickstart a new smoking epidemic.”

Meanwhile, on the contrary to these alarming claims, a recent ASH report has indicated that the proportion of under 18s who try vaping has dropped to the lowest level since 2016. The following were the key findings:

-More than three quarters of 11-18 year olds have never tried (76.9%) or are unaware of e-cigarettes (6.6%).
-Young people vape mainly just to give it a try (52.4%) not because they think it looks cool (1.0%).
-In 2019 15.4% of 11-18 year olds had tried vaping, compared to 16.0% in 2018. This is an increase from 2015 when 12.7% of 11-18 year olds had tried e-cigarettes.
-In 2019, 1.6% of 11-18 year olds used e-cigarettes more than once a week (1.7% in 2018) compared to 0.5% in 2015.
-Vaping is much less common among young people who have never smoked. A large majority of never smokers aged 11-18, 93.8% in total, have either never used an e-cigarette (87.8%) or are unaware of them (6.0%). Of young people aged 11-18 years old who have never smoked, 5.5% have ever tried e-cigarettes, 0.8% are current vapers, only 0.1% vape more than once a week, and not a single never smoker reported vaping daily.
-Children under 16 are less likely to try e-cigarettes than 16-18 year olds. 8.5% of 11-15 year olds have tried vaping, compared to 26.7% of 16-18 year olds.

Despite the number of studies indicating the effectivity of vaping products as smoking cessation tools, Pisinger inaccurately stated that there is no such evidence. “It is important to remember that none of these very, very rich tobacco companies and e-cigarette companies have registered their product as a smoking cessation product. The only reason why they haven’t done it is they have no evidence that vaping is a good cessation tool. If it was effective they would have tried to have it approved,” she said.

The NNA about Flavour Bans

Earlier this year, the New Nicotine Alliance (NNA) also released a statement about the flavours’ saga, pointing out that the proven success of e-cigarettes as smoking cessation tools, would be compromised if e-liquid flavours were to be banned.

The NNA and other leading experts at the Global Forum on Nicotine (GFN) in Warsaw, said that banning flavours from being sold, would be a deterrent to the increasing number of smokers who are quitting by switching to the proven safer alternatives.

“E-cigarettes are a proven safer alternative to smoking. The UK boasts 1.7 million former smokers who have converted from smoking to exclusively vaping instead. Flavours have been a big driver of that success, by distancing smokers from tobacco and providing an incentive to switch, with a wide selection of different options to suit their preferences,” said NNA Chair Martin Cullip, who hosted a briefing at the GFN on the subject.

Read Further: The Guardian

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