Vaping is the Safer Alternative of Tobacco Smoking for a Healthier Lifestyle
Vaping has become a topic of great interest and debate in recent years, particularly in relation to its safety compared to smoking. The latest evidence update on vaping in England, published by the Office for Health Improvement and Disparities (OHID), provides valuable insights into the subject. This comprehensive report, led by academics at King’s College London, reaffirms the findings of previous studies and highlights that vaping is largely safe and significantly safer than smoking. In this article, we will delve into the key findings of the report, explore the health risks associated with vaping, and shed light on how vaping can help reduce the risks of smoking.
The Safety of Vaping Compared to Smoking
The OHID report emphasizes that vaping is overwhelmingly safer than smoking. It underscores the potential of alternative nicotine delivery devices, such as vaping products, in reducing the substantial health burden caused by cigarette smoking. Smoking remains the largest single risk factor for death and ill-health globally, a leading cause of health inequalities in England, and the second most important risk factor for death and disability-adjusted life years worldwide.
Lower Biomarkers of Toxicant Exposure
One of the significant findings of the report is that biomarkers of toxicant exposure associated with the risk of cancer, respiratory conditions, and cardiovascular diseases are significantly lower in vapers compared to smokers. Additionally, toxicant exposure from vaping is similar to or higher than that from not using nicotine products. Importantly, short-term second-hand exposure to vaping among non-smokers or non-vapers did not lead to a significant increase in toxicant exposure. Although the report acknowledges the limitations of existing studies on biomarkers of harm, it suggests that no major causes of concern have been associated with vaping.
The Risks of Vaping for Non-Smokers
While vaping is deemed much safer than smoking, it is important to note that it is not risk-free, particularly for individuals who have never smoked. The researchers conclude that in the short and medium term, vaping poses only a small fraction of the risks associated with smoking. Prof Peter Hajek from Queen Mary University of London’s Tobacco Dependence Research Unit emphasizes that switching to vaping removes almost all of the risks of smoking. It is crucial to highlight this distinction and ensure that non-smokers do not start vaping, as vaping, though significantly less harmful, still carries some risks.
Vaping Prevalence among Different Age Groups
The review also sheds light on the prevalence of vaping among different age groups. Among young people aged 11-18, smoking prevalence in 2022 increased from 4.1% in 2021 to 6.0%, while vaping prevalence rose from 4.0% to 8.6%. Importantly, the majority of young people who had never smoked were not currently vaping. Of those who had tried vaping, a considerable percentage had smoked first, indicating a pattern of experimentation. Furthermore, it is alarming that a significant number of young people managed to purchase vaping products illegally, despite regulations prohibiting their sale to individuals under 18 years old.
Vaping and Smoking Prevalence among Adults
Among adults, smoking prevalence in different surveys conducted in 2021 ranged from 12.7% to 14.9%, corresponding to approximately 5.6 to 6.6 million smokers. Vaping prevalence among adults in England increased from 7.1% in 2021 to 8.3% in 2022. The report also reveals that current smokers have a higher vaping prevalence compared to former smokers and individuals who have never smoked. The most common reasons for vaping among adults were to quit smoking, stay off tobacco, or simply because they enjoyed it.
Vaping as a Tool for Quitting Smoking
The researchers recommend that stop smoking services support smokers who wish to quit smoking by using vaping products. The guidance from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) emphasizes the role of vaping in preventing tobacco uptake, promoting quitting, and treating dependence. Numerous studies support the use of e-cigarettes as a way to help people quit smoking. While some mild side effects have been observed, they often decline over time. However, due to variations in device characteristics and limited long-term data, it remains challenging to determine the specific harms associated with e-cigarettes.
The latest evidence update on vaping in England confirms that vaping is largely safe and significantly safer than smoking. It underscores the role of alternative nicotine delivery devices, such as vaping products, in reducing the health burden caused by cigarette smoking. Vaping has been found to carry only a small fraction of the health risks associated with smoking. However, it is important to note that vaping is not risk-free, particularly for individuals who have never smoked. For smokers, switching completely to vaping can remove almost all the risks associated with smoking.
Frequently Asked Questions
- Is vaping safer than smoking?
Vaping is considered much safer than smoking. The latest evidence update from England highlights that vaping poses only a small fraction of the risks associated with smoking.
- Can vaping help people quit smoking?
Yes, numerous studies support the use of e-cigarettes as a tool for quitting smoking. Vaping exposes users to considerably lower levels of harmful substances than cigarettes.
- What are the risks of vaping for non-smokers?
While vaping is significantly less harmful than smoking, it is important for non-smokers not to start vaping. Vaping carries some risks, particularly for individuals who have never smoked.
- What are the prevalence rates of vaping among young people and adults?
The prevalence of vaping among young people aged 11-18 increased to 8.6% in 2022, while smoking prevalence rose to 6.0%. Among adults, vaping prevalence in England was 8.3% in 2022, with a higher prevalence among current smokers.
- What should smokers do to reduce their health risks?
Smokers are advised to switch completely to vaping as it removes almost all the risks associated with smoking. NHS stop smoking services can provide support in making this transition.