Smokers are becoming worse informed about e-cigarettes, despite yet another study showing vaping’s supreme effectiveness as a cessation aid
A new Cochrane Review by researchers from University College London has explored the effectiveness of e-cigarettes, and the results are incredibly positive. Last year, Professor Peter Hajek led a study which showed that e-cigarettes are almost twice as effective as traditional Nicotine Replacement Therapies (NRTs) such as patches or gum. The Cochrane Review reaffirms this by showing e-cigarettes have been on average 70% more effective than NRTs in 50 high quality studies worldwide.
This publication comes within days of the latest ASH E-cigarette report which also outlines the positive impact that e-cigarettes have had. However, it’s not all sunshine and rainbows for the vaping world, as the true potential of e-cigarettes is yet to be realised, and a major barrier to this is misperception amongst smokers.
Each year, Action and Smoking and Health (ASH) releases a detailed report on the use of e-cigarettes. The current number of vapers, number of ex-smokers, vaping attitudes and various other pieces of data are all collated and analysed. This key data gives policy makers, health officials and indeed vapers and smokers valuable information; allowing them to make informed decisions.
While the key findings show that e-cigarettes are having an increasingly positive impact on the number of ex-smokers in Great Britain, some of the information is very frustrating. Plainly put, vaping is still proving to be the most popular and most successful quitting aid, but accurate knowledge about e-cigarettes is on the downturn, and this must have an effect on uptake.
E-cigarettes 70% more effective than NRTs
The positive news is that the percentage of vapers who are now ex-smokers has yet again increased. In 2017, it was reported that the proportion of vapers who were now ex-smokers had passed the 50% mark. In 2020, this percentage has now risen to 58.9%, proving that e-cigarettes continue to help smokers quit for good. This percentage amounts to just less than 2 million current vapers who are now ex-smokers. A further 2.5 million former smokers have also now quit vaping, 40% (1 million) of whom were vaping weekly or daily. In that same time frame (2011 – 2019), smoking rates (in England) have fallen from 19.8% to 13.9% which equates to 2 million fewer smokers.
Combine these outstanding figures with the Cochrane data showing e-cigarettes are 70% more effective than NRTs, and it’s clear to see just what a positive impact vaping is having.
Perceptions of vaping are getting worse
Despite these outstanding results and a wealth of evidence into the relative safety of vaping, a worryingly low number of smokers can correctly identify e-cigarettes as being less harmful than smoking. Last year, only 48% of smokers could correctly identify vaping as being less harmful than smoking; an already concerning number. This year, this figure has fallen to 39%; potentially resulting in a devastating missed opportunity in the fight against tobacco.
Given the clear positive impact they can have, it is very frustrating to hear that smokers are becoming less informed about the relative safety of e-cigarettes. It becomes even more frustrating when we read the data that shows that the number of vapers in Great Britain has decreased between 2019 and 2020, for the first time since records begun.
In 2019, The ASH report showed that there were 3.6 million vapers in the Great Britain. This year, the level has dropped to 3.2 million vapers. With 5.7 million smokers in England and more than 7 million in Great Britain, there is still a lot of work to be done. A significant number of these smokers haven’t even tried an e-cigarette yet.
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 successfully 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 Nick Hopkinson, Reader in Respiratory Medicine at Imperial College London and Chair of ASH added:
“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.”
It’s refreshing to see how impactful e-cigarettes can be and we welcome the reports from both ASH and Cochrane. However, something needs to be done about the misperceptions surrounding e-cigarettes. Hundreds of thousands of premature deaths could be averted if these smokers were simply better informed.
If you are a smoker looking to make the switch to vaping then head to our Quitting Advice page where you will find all the latest help and guidance on quitting smoking with the help of an e-cigarette.