Vaping just took a huge step forward in its quest for public acceptance. A report published today by Public Health England (PHE), an agency sponsored by the UK’s Department for Health, has concluded that e-cigarettes are 95 percent less harmful than traditional smokes. In addition, it’s recognised their potential to help people quit smoking altogether, and says it looks forward to the day when the NHS can prescribe medicinally regulated devices. “E-cigarettes could be a game changer in public health, in particular by reducing the enormous health inequalities caused by smoking,” Professor Ann McNeill from King’s College London, and one of the review’s independent authors said.
The problem, the research found, is that close to half of the UK population (44.8 percent) isn’t aware that vaping is less harmful than tobacco. In fact, a growing number of people think e-cigarettes are just as dangerous, if not more so than the regular kind — 22.1 percent hold this view in 2015, up from 8.1 percent in 2013. PHE hasn’t suggested that vaping is a healthy pursuit — it’s likely not risk free — but it believes public perception could be stopping smokers from trying e-cigarettes and, eventually, dropping the habit entirely. “Local stop smoking services should look to support e-cigarette users in their journey to quitting completely,” Professor Kevin Fenton, Director of Health and Wellbeing at PHE said.
Legislation due in October will ban under-18s from buying e-cigarettes in the UK, in part because their long-term health effects are still unknown. Today’s report isn’t an all-clear for lifelong vaping, but it could help the technology slowly shake its troubled image.[Image Credit: Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images]