PHE supports vaping while new research shows just one cigarette a day is harmful

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PHE supports vaping while new research shows just one cigarette a day is harmful

Public Health England have released a new report showing e-cigarettes reduce harm to smokers, meanwhile new research shows even one cigarette a day causes heart disease and stroke

Public Health England (PHE) published a new report this February adding to the consensus that vaping is far less harmful than smoking and helps people to quit. Days later, a major new study was published showing that smoking just one cigarette a day raises the risk of heart disease by 50%, putting to bed the belief that smoking just one or two a day doesn’t do any harm.

Taken together, these findings show that even light smoking leads to heart disease and stroke and smoking cessation products are a safe and sensible way to quit smoking, and could add years to your life.  

PHE find vaping is at least 95% less harmful than smoking  

PHE commissioned the review of the evidence around e-cigarettes as part of the Tobacco Control plan for England, which aims to reduce smoking rates from 15.5% of adults to 12% by 2020. A team of experts from the UK Centre for Tobacco and Alcohol Studies (UKCTAS) reviewed the latest evidence and their findings support the consensus among health professionals that vaping can be used to help people quit smoking with substantial health benefits. 

Key findings from the review:

  • Vaping is at least 95% less harmful than smoking.
  • Using e-cigarettes helps people to quit. At least 20 000 people per year have managed to stop smoking using e-cigarettes.
  • E-cigarettes do not serve as a gateway to smoking. The evidence shows their use is almost entirely limited to those who have already smoked and have attracted very few young people into regular smoking, despite some experimentation.

Worryingly, a quarter of adults (26%) believe that vaping is at least as harmful to health as smoking, and 40% of smokers have never tried e-cigarettes. The review also highlighted a misunderstanding around nicotine. Most people believe that nicotine, contained in both cigarettes and e-cigarettes, is responsible for the harm caused by smoking, when in fact it is the substances in the cigarette smoke. 

Professor John Newton, Director for Health Improvement at PHE, said: “Our new review reinforces the finding that vaping is a fraction of the risk of smoking, at least 95% less harmful, and of negligible risk to bystanders. Yet over half of smokers either falsely believe that vaping is as harmful as smoking or just don’t know.

“It would be tragic if thousands of smokers who could quit with the help of an e-cigarette are being put off due to false fears about their safety.”

Professor Ann McNeill, lead author and Professor of Tobacco Addiction at King’s College London explained: “People smoke for the nicotine, but contrary to what the vast majority believe, nicotine causes little if any of the harm. The toxic smoke is the culprit and is the overwhelming cause of all the tobacco-related disease and death. There are now a greater variety of alternative ways of getting nicotine than ever before, including nicotine gum, nasal spray, lozenges and e-cigarettes.”

Meanwhile, new evidence shows just one cigarette a day leads to heart disease  

A major new study published in the BMJ (British Medical Journal) this February has found that even light smoking causes damage to the blood vessels and heart. Researchers looked at 141 studies investigating smoking and the risk of heart disease and stroke and found that smoking around one cigarette a day raises the risk of heart disease by about 50% (48% for men and 57% for women) compared to people who have never smoked. 

The findings were similar for stroke, with one daily cigarette linked to a 31% higher risk in women and a 25% higher risk in men.

While you might expect to see a linear relationship between smoking and heart disease – namely the more you smoke the greater your risk – this was not the case. By comparing the risks of smoking one, five and 20 cigarettes per day, the researchers from University College London's Cancer Institute were surprised to find that smoking one cigarette a day was linked to around half the risk of smoking 20, far higher than expected. 

This is not the same as the risks for cancer, which are much lower with light smoking than with smoking 20 a day.

The authors concluded that there is no safe level of smoking, and that for smokers the ultimate goal should be to quit completely over time, rather than cut back.  

Get help to quit 

Nirmala Markandu, Hypertension Nurse Specialist at Blood Pressure UK: “The evidence in favor of vaping as a means to quitting smoking is good news as smoking raises blood pressure, leading to thousands of preventable deaths from heart disease and stroke. 

“Stopping smoking is one of the most important changes you can make to live a long and healthy life. You are far more likely to give up for good if you have support and use stop smoking products, and there is lots of help available for free, including advice on the stop smoking aids that could help you.”

There are lots of ways you can quit, with different stop smoking aids and support services available to suit you. Visit Smokefree for more information. 

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