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Thousands of smokers' lives could be saved by switching completely to vaping

THOUSANDS of early deaths and cases of disease could be prevented over time if every smoker stopped smoking tobacco completely and switched to vaping.


That is the claim from North East tobacco control programme Fresh and a senior North East cancer doctor as experts from around the globe attend the 7th annual UK E-Cigarette Summit in London this week.


The Royal College of Physicians has previously stated that while vaping may not be completely "safe", the hazard to health arising from long-term use of e-cigarettes available today in the UK is unlikely to exceed 5% of the harm from smoking tobacco. See


In contrast to vaping, 1 in 2 long term smokers die early from a smoking related illness. Tobacco contains thousands of harmful chemicals and causes 16 cancers, with around 5,500 people in the North East dying from smoking a year and around 36,000 hospital admissions a year from smoking tobacco.


Dr Tony Branson, Consultant Oncologist and Clinical Lead for the Northern Cancer Alliance, said: "Not all the publicity recently about vaping has been positive – but people who are vaping to quit smoking need the right information to make an informed choice and it is vital that they are not scared back into the more harmful option of tobacco smoking.


"If you're not a smoker, the advice is don't vape. But if you are, it is much better to vape instead. Over 350,000 people in the North East smoke and if every one of those switched to vaping completely, it's likely we would see a big benefit to the health of people in the North East.


"When you set fire to a cigarette and inhale the smoke, the toxic chemicals that go into your lungs are far more dangerous that what you will get from vaping. But it is important to switch completely – even smoking a few cigarettes a day raises your risks of cancer and heart disease."





Ailsa Rutter, OBE, Director of Fresh, said: "To date all the evidence strongly suggests that e-cigarettes are not only helping people to stop smoking completely, but they contain significantly fewer harmful chemicals than tobacco. If you don't smoke or have never smoked, don't vape. But if you do smoke, you would reduce the risks from switching completely.


"If every smoker stopped tomorrow and switched completely from smoking to vaping, it is likely this would prevent thousands of early deaths and cases of long term disease here in the North East and nationally."


Prof Eugene Milne, Director of Public Health for Newcastle City Council and lead tobacco DPH in the North East, said: "People often think the problem with cigarettes is nicotine but it's the many other chemicals which cause most of the health problems such as cancer.


"The best thing any smoker can do is give up completely but we know that can be difficult for some people but if you can't do that, vaping is less harmful than smoking. Vaping is less harmful than smoking because you're not setting fire to and breathing in all the cancer causing chemicals."


Since mid-September, headlines around the world have warned about an outbreak of serious lung disease across the US, said to be associated with vaping. However, the main chemicals under suspicion in the US such as THC oil and Vitamin E acetate are not permitted in e-cigarettes in this country.


Reacting to coverage about e-cigarettes in Nottingham reported in the media this week in relation to a teenage boy having a negative reaction to vaping in his lungs, Prof John Britton, director of the UK Centre for Tobacco & Alcohol Studies and Consultant in Respiratory Medicine, said: "It's not absolutely clear what has happened here, but it looks like an allergy to an inhaled substance.


There have been a very small number of cases of this condition reported in vapers worldwide, so I think we can conclude that it happens but is thankfully very rare. This is worrying, and the risk needs to be acknowledged, but in absolute terms it is extremely small - and, crucially, far smaller than that of smoking."


Vapers in the UK may be aware of reports from the United States about lung problems from vaping - however the UK has some of the most stringent regulations in the world on electronic cigarettes. In comparison, cases in the US have been linked to cannabis oil and Vitamin E acetate which are not allowed in this country.


The Royal College of Physicians advice is:

  • Vaping isn't completely risk-free but is far less harmful than smoking tobacco.
  • If you've switched to vaping and are finding it helpful to stop you smoking, and are not suffering any adverse effects, then carry on, don't go back to smoking.
  • Vapers should only be buying from mainstream suppliers who are selling regulated products, to use black market products may carry potentially lethal risks.
  • When you're buying e-cigs you can check with the retailer whether their vaping products are notified/regulated products — if the retailer doesn't know, then go somewhere where the retailer can confirm their products are regulated.
  • Anyone concerned about adverse effects from an e-cigarette they're using should immediately report this to the MHRA, using the yellow card scheme. Information about this is available here.
  • If you're experiencing serious adverse effects which you think are due to vaping, then stop vaping and get advice from your doctor
  • We must continue to monitor the use of vaping, particularly in younger people, including the marketing approaches of big tobacco to this group