E-cigarettes are around 95% less harmful than traditional tobacco cigarettes, according to a new study from Britain’s Department of Health. It is the first time public health officials have asserted that vaping, though not risk-free, definitively causes less harm than smoking.
According to the study, nearly all of the 2.6 million adults who vape in Britain are current or former smokers using e-cigarettes to help them quit. Only a small fraction are teenagers.
The chemicals that contribute to smoking-related diseases such as cancer are largely absent in e-cigarettes. ”The problem is people increasingly think they are at least as harmful, and this may be keeping millions of smokers from quitting,” said Kevin Fenton, director of health and wellbeing at Public Health England, which conducted the research.
The study also crucially points out that there is no evidence supporting the view that e-cigarettes are a “gateway” to smoking tobacco, for adults and minors. Only 2% of young people in Britain vape regularly.
Moreover, e-cigarettes could help eliminate health problems in poorer areas, where smoking tobacco is more prevalent. ”E-cigarettes could be a game changer in public health in particular by reducing the enormous health inequalities caused by smoking,” said Ann McNeill, one of the study’s authors and a professor at King’s College London.
The study’s findings are counter to research from other organizations, including the World Health Organization. As e-cigarettes grow in popularity, many governments around the world have tried to restrict their use, largely through media campaigns.