Department of Health
E-cigarettes around 95% less harmful than tobacco estimates landmark review
An expert independent evidence review published today by Public Health England (PHE) concludes that e-cigarettes are significantly less harmful to health than tobacco and have the potential to help smokers quit smoking.
Key findings of the review include:
- the current best estimate is that e-cigarettes are around 95% less harmful than smoking
- nearly half the population (44.8%) don’t realise e-cigarettes are much less harmful than smoking
- there is no evidence so far that e-cigarettes are acting as a route into smoking for children or non-smokers
The review, commissioned by PHE and led by Professor Ann McNeill (King’s College London) and Professor Peter Hajek (Queen Mary University of London), suggests that e-cigarettes may be contributing to falling smoking rates among adults and young people. Following the review PHE has published a paper on the implications of the evidence for policy and practice.
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. 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).
However, the review raises concerns that increasing numbers of people think e-cigarettes are equally or more harmful than smoking (22.1% in 2015, up from 8.1% in 2013: ASH Smokefree GB survey) or don’t know (22.7% in 2015, ASH Smokefree GB survey).
Despite this trend all current evidence finds that e-cigarettes carry a fraction of the risk of smoking.
Emerging evidence suggests some of the highest successful quit rates are now seen among smokers who use an e-cigarette and also receive additional support from their local stop smoking services.
Professor Kevin Fenton, Director of Health and Wellbeing at Public Health England said:
Smoking remains England’s number one killer and the best thing a smoker can do is to quit completely, now and forever.
E-cigarettes are not completely risk free 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. Local stop smoking services should look to support e-cigarette users in their journey to quitting completely.
Professor Ann McNeill, King’s College London and independent author of the review, said:
There is no evidence that e-cigarettes are undermining England’s falling smoking rates. Instead 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.
Professor Peter Hajek, Queen Mary University London and independent author of the review said:
My reading of the evidence is that smokers who switch to vaping remove almost all the risks smoking poses to their health. Smokers differ in their needs and I would advise them not to give up on e-cigarettes if they do not like the first one they try. It may take some experimentation with different products and e-liquids to find the right one.
Professor Linda Bauld, Cancer Research UK’s expert in cancer prevention, said:
Fears that e-cigarettes have made smoking seem normal again or even led to people taking up tobacco smoking are not so far being realised based on the evidence assessed by this important independent review. In fact, the overall evidence points to e-cigarettes actually helping people to give up smoking tobacco.
Free Stop Smoking Services remain the most effective way for people to quit but we recognise the potential benefits for e-cigarettes in helping large numbers of people move away from tobacco.
Cancer Research UK is funding more research to deal with the unanswered questions around these products including the longer-term impact.
Lisa Surtees, acting director at Fresh Smoke Free North East, the first region where all local stop smoking services are actively promoted as e-cigarette friendly, said:
Despite making great strides to reduce smoking, tobacco is still our biggest killer. Our region has always kept an open mind towards using electronic cigarettes as we can see the massive potential health benefits from switching.
All of our local NHS Stop Smoking Services now proactively welcome anyone who wants to use these devices as part of their quit attempt and increase their chance of success.
Latest News from
Department of Health
UK to support rest of the world to find COVID-19 virus variants26/01/2021 14:10:10
The UK will offer its world-leading genomics expertise to identify new variants of the virus that causes COVID-19 to countries who do not have the resources to do so.
More employers sign up to rapid testing to protect workforce26/01/2021 10:10:10
Dozens of public and private sector employers are now offering rapid testing to those without symptoms.
Government Chief Scientific Adviser, Sir Patrick Vallance on the new variant of COVID-19 in the UK25/01/2021 16:10:00
Government Chief Science Adviser, Sir Patrick Vallance comments on the new variant of COVID-19.
Community Champions to give COVID-19 vaccine advice and boost take up25/01/2021 12:12:00
Over £23 million funding allocated to 60 councils and voluntary groups across England to expand work to support those most at risk from COVID-19 and boost vaccine take up.
Winners announced of £7.6 million fund to help give babies the best start in life25/01/2021 10:10:10
New Health and Wellbeing Fund will support 19 projects to reduce health inequalities among new mothers and babies.
Deputy Chief Medical Officer Jonathan Van-Tam opinion piece in The Sunday Telegraph25/01/2021 08:10:00
Deputy Chief Medical Officer Jonathan Van-Tam highlights the importance of continuing to follow the guidance, even after receiving a COVID-19 vaccination.
NHS Test and Trace meets new year surge in demand with faster turnaround times22/01/2021 10:10:10
85% of in-person test results were returned the next day after the test was taken, compared with 63% the week before.
January 2021 findings from COVID-19 study published21/01/2021 16:10:00
Initial findings from Imperial College London and Ipsos MORI show infections increased by 50% from early December, with 1 in 63 people infected.
Two new UK Government Covid testing sites open in Fife21/01/2021 13:05:00
The UK Government has opened new walk-through coronavirus testing centres in Glenrothes and Dunfermline.