Every year the UK government commissions an independent review of the evidence around the safety of vaping. The review of vaping, now in its eighth reiteration, is already the most solid review of vaping evidence in the world - and this year is the most comprehensive yet.
Evidence on vaping safety
The report reiterated that vaping poses only a small fraction of the risks of smoking. However, that doesn’t mean vaping is risk free.
This year there is particular emphasis on biomarkers of exposure - i.e. markers in the body that show the body has been exposed to certain chemicals or toxins.
Not only did the report find that vapers’ biomarkers were significantly lower than those found in smokers, it also found that there was no exposure to biomarkers from passive vaping.
Dr Debbie Robson, a Senior Lecturer in Tobacco Harm Reduction King’s IoPPN and one of the report’s authors said:
“The levels of exposure to cancer causing and other toxicants are drastically lower in people who vape compared with those who smoke. Helping people switch from smoking to vaping should be considered a priority if the Government is to achieve a smoke-free 2030 in England.”
Confusion amongst smokers
Unfortunately the evidence that vaping is safer is not reaching the people who need to know it the most.
Almost two thirds of smokers believe that vaping is as or more harmful than smoking.
Nicotine is not the cause of smoking diseases. However, the report also found that only 11% of UK adults knew that “none or a small amount of the risks of smoking were due to nicotine”.
Vaping amongst non-smokers
The report highlighted findings from a recent Action on Smoking and Health report.
While the number of young people who vape has doubled in recent year, a key point is that this is almost entirely confined to young people who previously smoked. 98.3% of young people who do not smoke do not vape.
The figures were similar for adults, with only 0.6 - 0.7% of non-smoking adults using vape devices.
While the authors are keen to discourage young people from vaping, they emphasised that care must be taken so that people understand that vaping is safer than smoking.
Disposable devices and enforcement
The report also noted the increase in the sales of disposable vapes, now used by over 50% of vapers. It expressed concerns over cuts to enforcement agencies that police under-age vaping and illicit devices, and called for increased funding - a call reiterated by the independent trade body the IBVTA.
Commenting on the report, Gillian, CEO of the IBVTA, stated:
“Our industry needs to continue to uphold the high standards that have made the UK a world leader in vaping and tobacco harm reduction. At the same time it must do everything it can to prevent underage sales. For adult smokers, the message is clear. Vaping offers smokers a real and proven effective way out of smoking and represents just a small fraction of the risk.”
Nicotine vaping in England: 2022 evidence update (UK Gov)
Switch from smoking to vaping cuts health risks substantially, report finds (Guardian)
IBVTA welcomes new OHID evidence review on vaping (IBVTA)
Use of e-cigarettes (vapes) among young people in Great Britain (Action on Smoking and Health)
Expert Reaction to Nicotine vaping in England: an evidence update, as published by the Office for Health Improvement and Disparities (OHID) and authored by scientists at KCL (Science Media Centre)
Smoke Without Fire: The Truth About Vaping Safety (Ashtray Blog)