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Ecigs increase smokers' chances of quitting - but use decreases




SMOKERS could be giving themselves a better chance of quitting if they switch completely to vaping with an e-cigarette, according to a major international review published today [14th October] [1].


E-cigarettes are 70% more effective at helping smokers quit than the use of nicotine replacement therapy, currently the most commonly used medication to help smokers quit, according to the review by the Cochrane Collaborative.


The findings also come as public health charity Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) publish figures showing e-cigarette uptake dropped in 2020 compared to 2019 [2]. ASH has expressed concern that concerns about health risks from e-cigarettes may mean thousands of smokers who could benefit from switching completely are missing the chance.


Cochrane Reviews are internationally recognized as the highest standard in evidence-based health care, and the findings on vaping strengthenexisting evidence. However, data from ASH from their annual survey with YouGov found that in March 2020 there were 3.2 million e-cigarette users in Great Britain down from 3.6 million in 2019 [3]. In the North East there were around 154,990 people vaping in 2020 compared to 169,700 in 2019.


Almost all users are smokers or ex-smokers with use among never smokers very low.


ASH points to a stagnation in the numbers of smokers who are using e-cigarettes given their proven impact on helping smokers quit. There has been little growth in the rate at which smokers use e-cigarettes since 2014. In 2020 17.4% of smokers were using an e-cigarette almost unchanged from 2014 when 17.6% reported current use. Unfounded concerns about the relative safety of e-cigarettes are a likely cause – just 39% of smokers in Great Britain correctly believe vaping is less harmful than smoking in 2020.


Ailsa Rutter OBE, Director of Fresh, said: "For anyone smoking, switching completely to vaping will help to reduce your risks, save you money and most importantly improve your chances of quitting for good.


"Tobacco smoking kills one in two long term smokers, and North East hospitals see tens of thousands of hospital admissions every year from smoking. But vaping is not smoking and we do need to end the confusion around this.


"Most people who vape are doing so with the aim of switching from tobacco. E-cigarettes are now the country's most popular quitting aid, and we need to support anyone using them to stay tobacco free."


Deborah Arnott, Chief Executive of ASH said: "About a third of smokers have never even tried an e-cigarette and less than 20% are currently using one. If many more smokers could be encouraged to give e-cigarettes a go the latest evidence indicates that many more might successful quit.


"Health professionals have an important role to play. They can give smokers the confidence to try an e-cigarette, by letting them know that they can help them manage cravings and that they are a much safer alternative than continuing to smoke."


Dr Ruth Sharrock, Respiratory Consultant, Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Gateshead said: "I see patients in clinic and on the wards, who are battling the complications of smoking related diseases every day. Many have never tried using e-cigarettes, despite there being growing evidence that this might be a more successful way to reduce harm from tobacco for smokers who have failed with other quit methods. I urge them to try to switch and reassure them that the risks are vastly reduced compared to the fact that half of cigarette smokers die from a smoking related disease. E-cigarettes have a valuable place in our armoury at tackling tobacco related disease."


Dr Nick Hopkinson Reader in Respiratory Medicine, Imperial College London and Chair of ASH, said: "I see people every day in clinic whose lungs are damaged by smoking - many have tried to quit repeatedly but not been able to. E-cigarettes can help those who might otherwise struggle to quit successfully. I would urge colleagues throughout the NHS to join me in encouraging those smokers who could benefit to try using an e-cigarette. The more smokers we can get to quit today, the fewer people will be in our clinics and hospitals tomorrow."



[2] Total sample size was 12,808 adults 18+ in Great Britain. Fieldwork was undertaken online by YouGov between 17th February 2020 and 11th March 2020. Respondents are weighted to be representative of GB population

[3] Methodology: Calculations are by ASH and Dr Leonie Brose at King’s College London. In each of the years we applied the proportions of e-cigarette use by smoking status in the YouGov survey to the most recent available ONS mid-year GB population estimates at the time the YouGov data was gathered. In 2020, ONS mid-year GB population estimates for 2019have been used.