On February 11th, two written questions on vaping were posed to the UK Health Secretary of State, by Conservative MPS
One related to the deaths in the USA and the other a more generic question covering a number of frequent misperceptions around vaping. The respective questions were answered in fine form, giving us confidence that our Social Health and Care department are informed and know the facts.
Will an enquiry be launched into the deaths relating to vaping?
Andrea Jenkyns, Conservative MP asked the department of social health and care if it would be launching an inquiry into deaths relating to vaping. The vaping industry is all too familiar with misleading headlines but the stories which have surrounded this topic have been particularly concerning.
The correct cause of the deaths and illness in the US are now known but have been scarcely covered. We were therefore intrigued to see if the response would line up with the reliable facts or would follow the inaccurate trend laid out in the media. Refreshingly, the answer reflected the facts and offers a sensible initiative.
The response came from Jo Churchill, Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Health and Social Care. Here’s what she wrote…
“There are no current plans to conduct an inquiry. Cases have been reported in the United States of America of acute lung injury suspected to be associated with e-cigarette use or vaping, although Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recently recognised that either tetrahydrocannabinol or Vitamin E Acetate as the likely cause of the USA outbreak. Although to date reports in the United Kingdom do not reflect the trends in volume and pattern of the respiratory events seen in the USA, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) is conducting surveillance to ensure they can identify potential cases.
UK regulated e-cigarettes are far less harmful than smoking although not completely risk free. Five fatalities have been reported to the MHRA in the UK that may have been associated with e-cigarette use. Importantly there is no evidence that all the deaths were caused by e-cigarette use. This needs to be put into context of over 3 million e-cigarette users in the UK, and that smoking kills over 78,000 people each year alone in England.
The MHRA continues to assess all reports received in association with nicotine-containing e-cigarettes and take appropriate action to protect public health.”
E-cigarette prevalence, youth uptake and health awareness
The Marquess of Lothian posed a slightly more generic questions on vaping. He wanted clarity on a number of relevant topics. The prevalence of e-cigarette use, particularly among young people; the effectiveness of e-cigarettes and the health risks of e-cigarettes were on the Marquess’s agenda.
Youth uptake of vaping and the effectiveness of quit aids have come into question a number of times. In the US, unreliable reporting falsely claims that vaping is not an effective tool and also dubiously suggests that e-cigs are marketed towards kids.
In the UK, the evidence shows that e-cigarettes are not only effective but in fact the most effective and most popular quitting aid of all time. Official statistics also shows that the youth vaping rate is very low and smoking rates in the young have been decreasing steadily since e-cigarettes have grown in popularity.
Baroness Blackwood, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Health and Social Care was on hand to provide the response.
“Data from nationally representative surveys indicate that, in England, current vaping among young people remains low and concentrated among those who have already smoked. Among adults, vaping prevalence is 6.3%, with almost all vapers being smokers or ex-smokers. This data can be found in the attached Office for National Statistics statistical bulletin, Adult smoking habits in the United Kingdom: 2018.
Smoking rates continue to decline among both adults and youth. Public Health England (PHE) monitors the developing evidence on effectiveness of e-cigarettes for quitting smoking. A major UK randomised control trial has found e-cigarettes to be twice as effective as nicotine replacement therapy products when combined with behavioural support.
Data from English stop smoking services indicate that people who use an e-cigarette in their attempt to quit have the highest success rates. UK regulation of e-cigarettes includes measures to protect young people, including a ban on most forms of advertising, a minimum age of sale of 18 years and a ban on proxy purchasing.
PHE provides evidence-based information to healthcare professionals, teachers and the public about the relative harmfulness of e-cigarettes, vaping devices and smoked tobacco.”
We welcome the responses from the pair from the Under-Secretary for Health and Social Care. It’s refreshing to see government officials deciphering the facts from the fiction. We also welcome the questions from the Conservative MPs. As vaping has grown in popularity it has been taken much more seriously. The fact that MPs are posing these written questions on vaping shows a recognition that e-cigarettes have an important role to play in public health.