British Public Health Officials, Unlike Ours, Tell the Truth About E-Cigarettes

A new government report endorses vaping as a harm-reducing alternative to smoking.


FIN e-cigarette ad

This week Public Health England, an agency of the British Department of Health, published a 111-page report that unequivocally describes e-cigarettes as much less hazardous than the conventional kind and recommends them as a quitting aid for smokers. "Best estimates show e-cigarettes are 95% less harmful to your health than normal cigarettes," says PHE Chief Executive Duncan Selbie in the foreword, "and when supported by a smoking cessation service, help most smokers to quit tobacco altogether." This is not the sort of thing we are used to hearing from public health officials in the United States, who tend to view e-cigarettes as a threat rather than an opportunity to reduce the death and disease associated with smoking.

The report, prepared by Peter Hajek, a professor of clinical psychology at the Wolfson Institute for Preventive Medicine, and Ann McNeill, a professor of psychiatry, psychology, and neuroscience at King's College London, finds little reason to believe that e-cigarettes are "reglamorizing smoking" or luring nonsmokers into nicotine addiction—the two main fears voiced by anti-smoking activists and public health officials who view vaping with alarm. "The comprehensive review of the evidence finds that almost all of the 2.6 million adults using e-cigarettes in Great Britain are current or ex-smokers, most of whom are using the devices to help them quit smoking or to prevent them going back to cigarettes," PHE says. "It also provides reassurance that very few adults and young people who have never smoked are becoming regular e-cigarette users (less than 1% in each group)." As in the United States, smoking rates in the U.K. have fallen as vaping rates have risen. In short, "there is no evidence so far that e-cigarettes are acting as a route into smoking for children or non-smokers."

PHE regrets that "nearly half the population (44.8%) don't realise e-cigarettes are much less harmful than smoking." Public perceptions in the United States are even more divorced from reality. According to a Reuters poll completed on June 4, just 35 percent of Americans understand that "e-smoking is healthier than traditional cigarettes." The rest, nearly two-thirds, either disagree with that statement or don't know.

If you are wondering about the source of this misperception, look no farther than the mealymouthed and sometimes outright false statements of public health agencies and anti-smoking organizations, whose misleading pronouncements about vaping are uncritically amplified by their flacks in the press. "The long-term impact of e-cigarette use on public health overall remains uncertain," says the CDC, which calls e-cigarettes "tobacco products" even though they contain no tobacco. "When it comes to tobacco products," says CDC Director Tom Frieden, "we really have to assume they're dangerous until they're proven safe, rather than the other way around." Ron Chapman, director of the California Department of Public Health, calls e-cigarettes "a community health threat" and falsely claims "there is no scientific evidence that e-cigarettes help smokers successfully quit traditional cigarettes."

The advice from private organizations that are ostensibly interested in reducing smoking-related harm is generally not any more helpful or accurate. The American Cancer Society asks whether e-cigarettes are "safe," when the relevant question is whether they are less hazardous than conventional cigarettes, which they indisputably are. "Because the American Cancer Society doesn't yet know whether e-cigarettes are safe and effective," it says, "we cannot recommend them to help people quit smoking." The American Lung Association (ALA) says it's "a myth" that "e-cigarettes are safe" but does not address the relative hazards of smoking and vaping. The ALA also claims it's a "myth" that  "e-cigarettes can help smokers quit," which is demonstrably false, as the PHE report shows. The group suggests that the continuing declines in smoking among teenagers are "offset by the dramatic increase in use of e-cigarettes," which is scientifically absurd given the clear health advantages of vaping. 

The consequences of such misinformation can be serious. "E-cigarettes are not completely risk free," says Kevin Fenton, PHE's director of health and wellbeing, "but when compared to smoking, evidence shows they carry just a fraction of the harm. The problem is people increasingly think they are at least as harmful, and this may be keeping millions of smokers from quitting." McNeill, co-author of the PHE report, adds: "The evidence consistently finds that e-cigarettes are another tool for stopping smoking, and in my view smokers should try vaping and vapers should stop smoking entirely. E-cigarettes could be a game changer in public health, in particular by reducing the enormous health inequalities caused by smoking."

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  1. “Baby, you know I gave up cigarettes –

    but I didn’t give up SMOKING!”

    [bow bow bow…]

    1. don’t you mean “i didn’t give up tobacco”

      1. Actually, a Blues Brothers homage…

        And a main point of the story is that vapers ARE giving up tobacco.

      2. E-cigs have no tobacco. Didn’t you read the article?

        1. They have no smoke, either.

  2. Well, duh. Of course the zealots who won’t stop until nicotine is illegal are going to refuse to endorse a nicotine delivery system, no matter how relatively safe it is. It’s not a public health issue to them. It’s a moral issue. They’re Puritans who see people enjoying nicotine as eeeeeeevil.

    1. They don’t actually care whether nicotine is involved or not.

      They’re more like your grandmother, who was against playing cards, because they are bad, and are therefore something that one should be against, because they’re bad, and are something that only bad people use, because they’re bad.

    2. Exactly.

  3. I keep seeing the anti-smoking ads from the Tobacco-Free Kids Initiative or Kids Get Tobacco Free Campaign or whatever the hell it’s called that touts how far fewer kids are smoking now than before. (I’m assuming that’s a way of telling the kids “Smoking isn’t cool, look how unpopular it’s become!” as if kids aren’t going to be tempted to do something simply because it’s something that not everybody else is doing.) It’s odd that this arm of the government seems to think vaping doesn’t count as smoking when they’re measuring the success of their effort to get kids to quit smoking but the other arm of the government does count vaping as smoking when they’re measuring the amount of funding they may need based on the measure of of the problem.

    1. How is that odd? The arm that is supposed to discourage kids from smoking gets more funding based upon how successful they are, so of course they aren’t going to count vaping as smoking.

    2. Odd? For government, conflicting positions are business as usual.

  4. “Best estimates show e-cigarettes are 95% less harmful to your health than normal cigarettes.”

    “Worst estimates show e-cigarettes are 27% less harmful to your health than normal cigarettes.”

    “Best estimates show e-cigarettes are 100% less harmful to your health than ingesting vast quantities of cyanide.”

    “Best estimates show e-cigarettes are 0% less harmful to your health than e-cigarettes.”


      1. And, you were lied to.

        Or, as the administration calls it, ‘Friday’.

  5. “The long-term impact of e-cigarette use on public health overall remains uncertain,” says the CDC, which calls e-cigarettes “tobacco products” even though they contain no tobacco. “When it comes to tobacco products,” says CDC Director Tom Frieden, “we really have to assume they’re dangerous until they’re proven safe, rather than the other way around.” Ron Chapman, director of the California Department of Public Health, calls e-cigarettes “a community health threat” and falsely claims “there is no scientific evidence that e-cigarettes help smokers successfully quit traditional cigarettes.”

    When the British are less nannying than you, it’s time to seriously reevaluate your existence.

    1. This article is news to me, I thought the UK nanny statists were freaking out about vaping. Like everything else. Except seagulls killing people’s pets because seagull rights or something.

      1. Are hermit crabs popular pets inEngland?

      2. This is Public Health England — don’t ask Public Health Wales about e-cigs.

        1. Don’t ask Public Health Whales, either, by the way.

  6. But the real risk comes from e-cig users migrating to conventional cigarettes… when the FDA bans vape fluid or taxes it more severely than cigarettes.

    1. That will never happen because it’s not the intention. And if it does happen, then there must be some other cause, like devious advertising or something.

      1. I can almost guarantee if it does happen, that will be the excuse: vaping eventuates smoking, so in order to prevent smoking vaping needs to be taxed as heavily as smoking. And the notion that the tax makes smoking and vaping more interchangeable will never, ever be acknowledged. Nor the fact that collecting taxes, not smoking cessation, is the point of assessing the tax.

        1. After smoking about a pack and a half per day for 20 years, I switched to an e-cig around two weeks ago. Bummed a smoke from a friend a couple of days ago and found that, already, I’ve lost the taste for them (meaning, the cigarette was actually disagreeable to me). Everyone’s different, but I have a hard time imagining someone wanting to switch from e-cigs to smokes, even if it were possible through taxes, to increase the cost of using e-cigs to a level approaching that of smoking cigarettes.

          1. Same here. I’ve gone about 8 months since I’ve enjoyed a ciggarette. About 4 months since I’ve had one. It was disgusting and I felt sick after.

      2. Yeah – as long as our beloved ruling class declares the desired outcome up front, then anything they ordain can be used to achieve that outcome.

        “Something must be done!”

        “This is something.”

        “OK, this must be done!”

        You can’t argue with the logic. Because we’ll get you if you do.

    1. Butts.

      1. squares

      1. To go with the e-pot and e-Mexicans.

        It’s a new e-World!

        1. what’s e-buttsex – chopped liver?

          1. That was implied by ‘e-fags’, I thought – I would never want to leave the trifecta incomplete.

          2. And, yeah – I understand it’s kind of like chopped liver.

            But that’s just what I hear.

    2. Coffin-sticks. Or is that Coughin’ sticks?

  7. Our company H&R flack told us a few months ago that vaping is just as bad… and of course is still considered smoking, which will bump up your insurance payment.

    1. Moronic. Granted, I’m not a doctor, but I’m struggling to understand where the alleged harm comes in. It’s not the nicotine, which is addictive but not cancer-causing. Are humidifiers dangerous? When I have a bad cough and spend a few minutes every few hours hunkered over a sink full of hot water with a towel draped over my head, am I exposing myself to cancer-causing water vapor?

      1. The insidious dangers of Dihydrogen Monoxide have been well documented.

        1. Vapers are literally drowning themselves.

          *clutches pearls nervously*

      2. Nicotine still isn’t great for you. The negative cardiovascular effects of smoking are mostly due to nicotine as far as I know. But cancer is of course the big one and I don’t think there is any evidence for a link between vaping and cancer.

        It is worth noting that the vaping vapor is not water vapor. But it is generally things like glycerine and propylene glycol.

        1. Nope, nicotine divorced from tobacco smoke has similar long term effects to caffeine. The cardiovascular effects of tobacco smoke are mostly a result of carbon monoxide.

          1. Got any sources for that? Most of what I can find on a quick search, and what i have read in the past, seems to indicate that nicotine is responsible for a lot of the cardiovascular negative effects of tobacco use.

    2. You have a Hit & Run flack? Like a reverse zampolit? He doesn’t seem to be doing his job right.

      1. oops – subtract the ampersand. Damn my brain.

    3. Do they test you for nicotine for the insurance thing?

      Maybe they just can’t be bothered to distinguish smoking from other nicotine sources.

      1. Random testing – I was selected “randomly” this April.

    4. I will also note that this HR woman is about 100 pounds overweight. Great to hear from her about healthy lifestyles.

      1. Gut-shaming, as it were.

        I approve.

  8. The vital distinction here is that British public policy ultimately aims for the prohibition of all forms of smoking, and the severe curtailment of the sale and manufacture of the various implements related to it. I sincerely doubt that American legislators could muster the sort of fanatical prohibitionism necessary for the forbiddance of tobacco-based products. The sheer zealotry of British prohibitionism outmatches anything any American government has ever devised.

    1. Give us time.

      /’murcan Gummint

      1. I smoke cigars. I’m double-awful!

      2. Nope. The U.S. governments, including all levels, have discovered they can sin-tax tobacco and make boatloads of cash off the habit. Really reducing smoking would cut the flow of dollars. Why do you think the guy selling loosies got choked out?

        Come to think of it, that may be another part of the campaign against vaping.

        1. Duh, it came from here. Tobacco funded a great deal of gov’t before & after independence.

  9. E-cigarettes could be a game changer in public health, in particular by reducing the enormous health inequalities caused by smoking.”

    Fight Inequality!!!!

  10. Where’s my H/T, bitch?

  11. I smoked 2 packs a day for 20 years. 3 years ago I started vaping, (don’t buy the cheap ones at gas stations, go to a locally owned vape store and they will set you up). Now I haven’t touched a cigarette in over 2 years and my boss even lets me vape in the office. Fuck off Top Men who want to take what little joy there is away.

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