https://publichealthmatters.blog.gov.uk/2018/02/20/clearing-up-some-myths-around-e-cigarettes/

Clearing up some myths around e-cigarettes

No doubt you will have seen some of the stories in the media recently following the publication of PHE’s latest update of the evidence on e-cigarettes .  E-cigarettes do seem to be a bit like Marmite, courting controversy among the public and media alike.

Not surprisingly, there are lots of inaccuracies and misconceptions about e-cigarettes and vaping. This blog looks at the most common myths and provides the facts.

Our latest comprehensive independent e-cigarette review, authored by leading academics in the tobacco control field, looks at the up-to-date international data and peer-reviewed research.

Despite the sometimes confused, and confusing, media reporting around the safety of e-cigarettes, there is growing consensus around the evidence. While not without some risk, when compared to smoking e-cigarettes are far less harmful.

This view is supported by a number of key bodies, including Cancer Research UK, Action on Smoking and Health, the Royal College of Physicians, the British Medical Association and recently, a major US science body, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.

For a fuller picture of the review’s findings please see our blog: Key questions and findings from our e-cigarette evidence update

MYTH 1 -  E-cigarettes give you ‘popcorn lung’

One of the most commonly held concerns is that e-cigarettes might cause ‘popcorn lung’. This came about because some flavourings used in e-liquids to provide a buttery flavour 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 flavourings 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.

MYTH 2  - E-cigarettes aren’t regulated and we don’t know what’s in them

The UK has some of the strictest regulation for e-cigarettes in the world.  Under the Tobacco and Related Products Regulations 2016, e-cigarette products are subject to minimum standards of quality and safety, as well as packaging and labelling requirements to provide consumers with the information they need to make informed choices.

All products must be notified by manufacturers to the UK Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), with detailed information including the listing of all ingredients.

MYTH 3 - E-cigarettes must be harmful as they contain nicotine

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.

E-cigarettes do not contain tar or carbon monoxide, two of the most harmful elements in tobacco smoke.   They do contain some chemicals also found in tobacco smoke, but at much lower levels.

MYTH 4 - Exposure to e-cigarette vapour is harmful to bystanders

The evidence is clear that exposure to second hand smoke is harmful, which is why the UK has laws prohibiting smoking in enclosed public places and workplaces. These laws do not cover vaping and organisations are free to make their own policies on the use of e-cigarettes on their premises.

E-cigarette liquid is typically composed of nicotine, propylene glycol and/or glycerine, and flavourings. Unlike cigarettes, there is no side-stream vapour emitted by an e-cigarette into the atmosphere, just the exhaled aerosol.

PHE’s latest evidence review found that to date, there have been no identified health risks of passive vaping to bystanders. People with asthma and other respiratory conditions can be sensitive to a range of environmental irritants, which could include e-cigarette vapour, and PHE advises organisations to take this into account and to make adjustments where appropriate.

MYTH 5 - E-cigarettes will lead young people into smoking

Our report found no evidence so far to support the concern that e-cigarettes are a route into smoking among young people. UK surveys show that young people are experimenting with e-cigarettes, but regular use is rare and confined almost entirely to those who already smoke. Meanwhile, smoking rates among young people in the UK continue to decline. PHE will continue to monitor the trends in e-cigarette use alongside those in smoking.

MYTH 6 - E-cigarettes are being used as a Trojan horse – so the tobacco industry can keep people smoking 

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.

Of the 2.9 million adult e-cigarette users in the UK, more than half have completely stopped smoking. A further 770,000 have given up both smoking and vaping. At the same time, quit success rates have been improving and we’re seeing an accelerated drop in smoking rates, currently at a record low of 15.5% in England.

Our evidence review indicates that e-cigarettes could be contributing to at least 20,000 successful new quits per year and possibly many more.

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. 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 smokefree.

40 comments

  1. Comment by Sara posted on

  2. Comment by DJ posted on

    Excellent blog.
    after a 38 year bad habit of 20-30 cigs a day i gave up on February 20th 2015 and started vaping and have not touched a cig since.
    i have just passed 3 years and since then i have saved over £10,000 and not smoked 21,900 cigarettes.
    its just a shame that we will undoutably still see false misleading fake news reports in the daily fail and mainstream newspapers and sadly people believe everything they read in the papers. once these reports are debuncked with actual facts i think they should be made to retract said reports with a disclaimer. just think how many more might take up this 95% safer option and it may even save their lives.
    DJ

    Reply
    • Replies to DJ>

      Comment by Matt posted on

      DJ, exactly the same as me! Quit smoking after 10 years of unfiltered roll ups, went on to a decent Ecig box mod (with 6mg juice) and haven't had a cigarette in over 2 years. Couldn't really ask for more from Ecigs than that.

      Reply
  3. Comment by mike obrien posted on

    I was smoking 40 cigarettes a day but started using vapes 1st October 2017 and not had even one cigarette since( there have been days when i really really wanted a smoke but have not had one) breathing is getting better according to the surgery nurse after a test so I am staying with the vapes.

    Reply
    • Replies to mike obrien>

      Comment by Rachael posted on

      Wow that's great did you experience any weight gain ? I'm wanting to quit as I've just bought an e cig

      Reply
  4. Comment by Henry Murphy posted on

    i gave up a 30 a day smoking habit in Jan '16, and haven't smoked a cigarette since.I started using e cigarettes 2 weeks before i quit, and after trying everything available on the market to help me quit smoking, i have to say that, vaping with E cigarettes ,is definitely the way to quit for good! I have saved so much money in the past 2 years,and my health is so much better! I would recommend vaping e cigs if you really want to quit smoking!

    Reply
  5. Comment by Mike Jay Morgan posted on

    I've used ecigs since 12th of December 2015, had been smoking 20-40 roll ups a day and my body just couldn't cope so I moved onto ecigarettes.

    During this entire time of ecigarette use, my breathing improved and I never developed any symptoms except from irritable eyes from the vapour itself.

    More needs to be done to prove that ecigs work as an alternative to smoking to the public.

    Reply
  6. Comment by Gabriel Symonds posted on

    E-cigarettes should be seen for what they are: a means of continuing nicotine addiction in a way that it is hoped will be safer than smoking. But even if e-cigarettes turn out to be 100% safe, why should former smokers have to subject themselves to inhaling nicotine-laden fumes repeatedly throughout the day, every day, for years on end?

    If e-cigarettes are ‘contributing to at least 20,000 successful new quits per year’, and if this rate of attrition continues, for all of England’s seven million smokers to quit it will only take 350 years!

    Reply
    • Replies to Gabriel Symonds>

      Comment by Schwarzy posted on

      Nicotine addiction isn’t a problem though. Thousands dying from smoking is. We don’t sit and fret that people drink coffee and have a possible addiction to caffeine.

      Reply
      • Replies to Schwarzy>

        Comment by Gabriel Symonds posted on

        The only reason people are addicted to nicotine – whether through smoking or e-cigarettes – is because of their perceived inability to quit. Users of e-cigarettes take dozens or hundreds of puffs every day and it is therefore a false analogy to compare it with drinking coffee. Sucking nicotine and other chemicals into your lungs repeatedly for years on end is unlikely to do you any good.

        Reply
  7. Comment by Barbara Campbell posted on

    I gave up on the 17th October 2016 after 40 years of smoking. I was diagnosed with mild emphysema and Bronchiectasis, I couldn't have done it without the help of vaping...feel so much better...

    Reply
  8. Comment by R.Badhan posted on

    I started smoking at at a pretty young age and continued well into my 30's. Within a week of buying my first decent mod and tank i had practically kicked a 15 year habit. I found that i was addicted to the sensation of smoking more than nicotine or other substances.

    The fact that vaping is now recognised as being significantly safer than smoking by official medical channels is truly refreshing and i hope it helps lead more people away from such a harmful habit.

    Reply
    • Replies to R.Badhan>

      Comment by Yvonne posted on

      You hit it on the head in your blog. Most smokers smoke out of habit. Something to do with their hands. Helps ease boredom. Of course nicotine is like cannabis and addictive.

      Reply
      • Replies to Yvonne>

        Comment by Grinner posted on

        Cannabis isn't addictive, Yvonne. An outdated concept to say the least...

        Reply
        • Replies to Grinner>

          Comment by TMH posted on

          Agreed Grinner, incorrect beliefs held due to misinformation, ignorant press and successive governments ludicrous statements in regard to a matter they know nothing about, simply because they buy the ignorant catch all phrase "drugs bad". Alcohol is many hundreds of times more addictive than cannabis, it is also hundreds of times more harmful, not only to the drinker, but to families and society as a whole. But because booze can be taxed, booze is good !
          Whilst cannabis cannot be controlled (it grows in the wild if allowed to) and the drug companies won't do the research into it's benefits, cancer and M.S. treatment, only because they can't then patent and own the product as it grows freely in nature, it will remain on the "drugs bad" list as it isn't profitable to "big pharm'" or governments.

          Reply
  9. Comment by chris delbert posted on

    American here..(sorry about Trump, not my fault..)

    Stopped smoking cigs 3 years ago, and started vaping. I feel better, look better, smell better, and I'm back to hiking, mountain biking, camping, etc... I have my girlfriend to thank for it, she wants me to live.

    Currently working on phasing out the vaping, hope to be completely free of all of it within the year.

    Thanks for an insightful article.

    Cheers.

    Reply
  10. Comment by Sharon posted on

    I smoked for over 40 years, I tried numerous times to give up over the years and the most I ever managed was 3 months until I started vaping. I haven’t had a cigarette since 3rd January 2017. I still vape but could stop at anytime as I no longer have nicotine. My husband gave up at the same time and he didn’t even want to.

    Reply
  11. Comment by CJ posted on

    Three and half years into vaping after 30 years of smoking and the health benefits were apparent just weeks in. The issue of quitting Vapes and a dependence on them is a real one but as yet, it has not become critical. To date, and unless contradictory research emerges, it was a positive move for me personally.

    Reply
  12. Comment by David posted on

    Excellent article at last

    Reply
  13. Comment by Stuart posted on

    June 2015 I stopped smoking after 22 years of a 30-40 a day habit. This couldn't have happened without my vape. After a few months at the highest nicotine I stepped down then a few months on that and so forth until middle of last year when I went to 0 nicotine! A few months of struggling and nearly cracking then January this year I'm completely vape free. If I'd have listened to all the doom and gloom I'd still be smoking now, stinking, unable to breathe, unhealthy and a lot poorer for it all!!!

    Reply
  14. Comment by Ken Heffernan posted on

    I smoked 40-60 smokes a day for over 30 years and had tried everything to quit but always failed and went back to smoking. Just over 5 years ago I discovered vaping and since then I have bot smoked since, for the last 18 months I now do not even use nicotine. My health has improved I have lost weight as I know walk a lot without being out of breath, vaping has saved my life.

    Reply
  15. Comment by Dirk posted on

    Being from the Netherlands born in May 1947 and a frequent visitor of the UK I came in to contact with e-cigarettes in whilst in England,I bought a mod and tried several times but layed it aside as not something for me,I only used it on the ferry whilst crossing to the UK.
    After a year and a half I tried again whilst in the mean time looking for the right e-liquid for me,as all I wanted was the smoking sensation of rolled tobacco after some months I managed to find the right liquid with little amount of nicotine and without any flavour and over 3 months totally I was stopped smoking tobacco and haven’t touch or bought roll tobacco,right now smoke free for 8 months and that after 59 !! Years of smoking I started with the age of 12 and in a few weeks turn 71
    What I do notice is : no cold feet in winter anymore,improved taste and smell,all in all it improved my health whilst still having a kind of “smoke” sensation without the need to go outside in the garden as I can vape inside even my poodle isn’t bothered and animals are very sensitive normally
    I’m very pleased with it

    Reply
    • Replies to Dirk>

      Comment by Yvonne posted on

      Good for you. There is an added bonus of course. You will not smell like a dirty ashtray when you are near people. So well done.

      Reply
    • Replies to Dirk>

      Comment by Ann posted on

      I was in exactly the same position as you. I had smoked for 45 years, and tried vaping before from cigs bought from a supermarket, hence they did not help at all, as I wanted my vaping to taste like cigarettes not strawberries. I eventually went to a proper vape shop, found the right mod for me and the right e-liquid (yes it tastes of cigarettes). I have not had a singe cigarette since starting vaping, and have not felt the need for one either. I feel better, smell better and am much better off financially. I strongly advise long term smokers to try this as it DOES work.

      Reply
  16. Comment by Paul Turner posted on

    Nothing that I didn't already know but a good article. Smoked 30 to 40 roll ups for over 40 years, I knew it was killing me but just couldn't give up. Got my first e-cig in June 2010 and within a week I stopped smoking and have not smoked since. The restrictions they are trying to put on vaping is to be blunt, just down right criminal!

    Reply
  17. Comment by H posted on

    As twisted would say "vaping saves lives"

    Reply
  18. Comment by Philip donnelly posted on

    I've literally just started vaping after 40 years of smoking roll ups and cigarettes I do get tempted every so often to smoke but so far haven't I'm also noticing now that cigarette smoke has a horrible smell to it and that's what others smell on you when your a smoker in just a week of vaping my breathing has calmed down and my sleep pattern is a lot better

    Reply
  19. Comment by Chris posted on

    I changed to ecigs 5 years ago after smoking 50 roll ups a day never even fancied a CIG since. Feel healthier and saving a lot of money saved my life.best thing ever invented

    Reply
  20. Comment by Roz Windsor posted on

    Thank goodness for an accurate account of vaping versus cigarettes . I get tired of reading " fake news " about vaping . I have vaped for 3 years now and my horrendous smokers cough was conpletly gone within 4 months .That alone told me it was far better than cigarettes .

    Reply
  21. Comment by Jason posted on

    I quit cigarettes a year and 6 days ago on my birthday. I said I would quit when our baby was born but didn't. So about 6 months after his birth my partner bought me a vape for my birthday. I had my last roll up that day and haven't even considered a cigarette since.

    Reply
  22. Comment by David Rhodes posted on

    I used to smoke 20-30 cigs even more at the weekends for the past 38 years,i was advised by doctors as you do to give up smoking,so i tried various alternatives,gum spray and champix,now champix was said that one of its side affects is may cause suicidal tendancies which obviously didnt affect me otherwise i wouldnt be here writing this .i managed to stay ciggy free for 10 days then back on them,then as of march last year i took up vaping got myself a decent setup so that i could get a satisfactory hit and away you go i have found it so easy to give up smoking using the vaping alternative but the best thing about vaping is it is more sociable people will stop and ask you questions about your device or what juice you on.you never see a smoker go up to another person and say hey man what fags you on.erm woodbines 18 mg.cmon folks smoking is dead ,vape on and live longer.

    Reply
  23. Comment by Jorge Barbosa posted on

    I started to smoke at the age of 13, because back in the day it was cool to smoke. Kept smoking till I was 43, and I was then smoking an average of 20 a day. Like most vapers, I started with a simple vape pen with what I now consider an awful 1.8mg liquid. I kept vaping, initially out of stubbornness, but after 2 weeks I started to notice very small differences. I didn't wake up coughing anymore, and was able to go upstairs without having to stop in the middle to catch my breath. I thought to myself "Can it be?..."
    I decided to invest in a better kit and was lucky enough to find a shop where they knew what they were talking about. I was recommended a better equipment but also taught about the quality of the liquids and that it would be beneficial to use a lower strenght liquid with this new kit. Which I did. Two more weeks and all of a sudden I rediscovered food. Everything became so more tasteful! As an added bonus, I was even able to reduce the amount of salt I was putting in my food, which helped with my blood pressure! And my lady, for the first time in ages, told me : " You smell nice today!..."
    No more nasty ashtray smell at home or in my clothes, or in my car, no more disgusting ashtrays full of cigarette butts, even my dog is happier because all of a sudden I enjoy taking him out again!
    Risks? Yes, there are some. But the rewards are worth it. And I am not saying vaping is a good thing, or that you should feel encouraged to start vaping just from what I said. I'm just sharing my personal experience, which I hope will help shed some light on so many lies and false propaganda about vaping.
    Oh, final note, I am now down to 0.3mg nicotine, after 2 years.

    Reply
  24. Comment by Chris posted on

    In autumn 2012 I had my first contact with ecigs.
    I never had the aim to stop smoking, because I like it.
    But I was interested in that amazing new technology.
    So I read a lot in the internet and bought my first ecig.

    After four weeks I stopped smoking automatically!

    Now I'am over 5 years smoke free thanks ecigs => without pressure but with pleasure!

    My Story of the switch can be read here in german: http://mystory.evun.org/testimonials/christian-l/

    Reply
  25. Comment by Andrew posted on

    After 32 years of smoking, I started vaping at the start of June 2016 and haven't touched a cigarette since. I didn't suffer any cravings either, which was completely different to my previous attempts to quit using various other methods.

    What alerted me to vaping was a BBC Horizon documentary by Michael Moseley ('E-Cigarettes, Miracle or Menace), which seemed to me, as a smoker at the time, to be refreshingly non-judgemental. I therefore did some research and decided to investigate further.

    What really made an impression on me was when I realised that I could have a beer without craving a cigarette, at which point I realised there was no point continuing to smoke when vaping solved that problem.

    However, getting people to even consider e-cigarettes is difficult. I know plenty of people who won't even consider it, despite knowing that I used to smoke as much as they still do and also knowing that I have stopped smoking despite having had difficulties in the past. Therefore the more accurate information that is out there, the better.

    Reply
  26. Comment by Laura posted on

    Second hand effects are real.. I get migraines from breathing in vape clouds. It’s worse in confined spaces but even outside, if someone walks past me vaping I get a headache that progresses into a migraine. Ecigs give me headaches.
    It’s very stressful for me and makes me feel very ill and can impact on my life for several days.

    Reply
    • Replies to Laura>

      Comment by Dazzadooby posted on

      That's not real. That's anecdotal. You're breathing in water vapour. Nothing more.

      Reply
      • Replies to Dazzadooby>

        Comment by Laura posted on

        It’s very real, and upsetting. I’m pleased that there are alternatives for people who smoke tobacco and want to give up but I think they should do some studies for people like me. I get that I may be in a small percentage group that are very sensitive. Thank fully I can avoid the vapour most days however when I can’t the migraine lasts a long time, making me feel sick and taking me out of normal activities like looking after my family and work. I have been seeking out studies that I can contribute to and that is how I came upon this discussion. That’s how real it is.

        Reply
  27. Comment by Mark Smith posted on

    Every week this blog just gets better! Thanks for being a great resource, just added some of these resources to our own site.

    Reply
  28. Comment by john o groats posted on

    you cant stop smoking who will fund the nhs
    where will the gov get the ax they need ,
    they have hammered smokers for years they would love some scientist to find it harmfull so they can tax it

    Reply
  29. Comment by Moni Smith posted on

    After smoking for over 50 years, I have been cigarette free for the last 4 years. All down to ecigs. I weaned my way down to 0mg of nicotine for the last year. But for the last 3 weeks I havent even had a puff of my ecig. Ecigs really do help you quit the ciggies.

    Reply

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