PUBLIC Health England has hit back at critics of its recent review of vaping – with a hard-hitting list of e-cigarette myths debunked.
The government experts came under scrutiny following a report earlier this month which revealed at least 20,000 smokers a year have quit tobacco for vaping. It also went onto suggest e-cigarettes, which are around 95 per cent less harmful than tobacco, be allowed in hospitals and available on prescription.
But following a backlash of “confused, and confusing” media reporting around the safety of vaping, the PHE has been forced to defend itself, saying the review was not only compiled by experts but its views are supported by a number of key bodies both in the UK and US including Cancer Research and the Royal College of Physicians.
In a blog entitled “Clearing up some myths around e-cigarettes”, PHE compared reaction to its report as being “a bit like Marmite” before clearing up the “inaccuracies and misconceptions” of vaping with a list of six common myths.
Under the heading “Myth 1 – E-cigarettes give you popcorn lung”, the PHE blogger wrote: “One of the most commonly held concerns… this came about because some flavorings used in e-liquids to provide a buttery flavor contain the chemical diacetyl, which at very high levels of exposure has been associated with the serious lung disease bronchiolitis obliterans.
“The condition gained its popular name because it was initially observed among workers in a popcorn factory.
“However, diacetyl is banned as an ingredient from e-cigarettes and e-liquids in the UK. It had been detected in some e-liquid flavorings in the past, but at levels hundreds of times lower than in cigarette smoke. Even at these levels, smoking is not a major risk factor for this rare disease.”
It then goes on to debunk other commonly believed – and recently reported – myths including “e-cigarettes aren’t regulated so we don’t know what’s in them” and are “harmful because they contain nicotine”.
It wrote: “Some four out of 10 smokers wrongly think nicotine causes most of the tobacco smoking-related cancer, when evidence shows nicotine actually carries minimal risk of harm to health. “Although nicotine is the reason people become addicted to smoking, it is the thousands of chemicals contained in cigarette smoke that causes almost all of the harm.”
Other myths it sought to dispel included: “Exposure to e-cigarette vapour is harmful to bystanders”, “E-cigarettes will lead young people into smoking” and one of the most controversial – “E-cigarettes are being used as a Trojan horse, so the tobacco industry can keep people smoking”.
The blogger wrote of the latter: “There is currently no evidence to suggest that e-cigarettes are encouraging people to continue smoking – the picture in the UK suggests the opposite. The proportion of e-cigarette users who are ex-smokers has been increasing over recent years.”
The PHE writer then went onto conclude that while e-cigarettes aren’t completely risk free, it’s important the public is given the correct facts to make its own decision.
“In summary, e-cigarettes and tobacco cigarettes are not the same and shouldn’t be treated as such. “It’s important that England’s seven million smokers are aware of the differences and have accurate information to inform their health decisions,” it explained.
“E-cigarettes aren’t completely risk free but carry a fraction of the risk of smoking and are helping thousands of smokers to quit and stay smoke free.”