A study funded by Cancer Research UK (CRUK) found that China had the highest number of tobacco-related deaths.
The study, “International burden of cancer deaths and years of life lost from cancer attributable to four major risk factors: a population-based study in Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa, the United Kingdom, and United States,” provided a comprehensive analysis of the impact of alcohol consumption, tobacco smoking, excess body weight, and human papillomavirus (HPV) infection, on cancer mortality and years of life lost (YLLs) across seven diverse countries: Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa, the United Kingdom (UK), and the United States (US).
Utilizing population attributable fractions from global population-based studies, the researchers applied these to estimates of cancer deaths in 2020 to determine potentially preventable cancer deaths and their 95% confidence intervals (CIs). In 2020, an estimated 20.8 million deaths were attributed to tobacco smoking across the seven countries, with the highest rates recorded in China, followed by Russia.
Funded by Cancer Research UK, the study highlighted the importance of cancer control efforts, such as those to reduce smoking rates, with the aim of decreasing the burden of cancer deaths.
EU subcommittee recognizes the potential of vapes as smoking cessation aids
Meanwhile, the EU’s Subcommittee on Public Health (SANT) has acknowledged the potential of vaping for smoking cessation and therefore reducing smoking-related deaths. This was outlined in a Parliament’s report on non-communicable diseases which recognized vaping as a gradual quitting method for smokers. However, in a contradictory move, SANT has proposed extending smoking bans to vaping.
Director of the World Vapers’ Alliance (WVA) Michael Landl, views Parliament’s recognition of vaping as a positive step. He urges the EU to fully embrace vaping within its strategy to reduce smoking-related illnesses, considering it a crucial tool for public health goals. However, he also expressed concern about the report’s recommendation to regulate vaping like smoking in public spaces.
Landl reiterated that treating vaping like smoking in any way sends the wrong message to smokers seeking to quit. He emphasized the lack of evidence for harm from secondhand vaping and called for a reconsideration of the broader impact of restricting vaping to smoking areas, including the risk of former smokers relapsing.
The WVA emphasized the need for a more thoughtful regulatory approach, rooted in common sense, so as to ensure that vaping remains a viable option for smokers who are committed to quit. The organization believes that supportive measures for harm reduction strategies, like vaping, should be integrated into EU public health policies to significantly reduce smoking rates and address non-communicable diseases.
The UK releases guidelines on vaping for health professionals
In fact in the UK, new evidence-based guidelines on vaping have been released by the National Centre for Smoking Cessation and Training. The guidelines aim to educate health professionals about vaping and encourage them to assist smokers in quitting through vaping. Prepared by a team of UK and international experts, the briefing emphasizes that vaping is a first-line treatment for smoking in the UK and is more effective than traditional nicotine replacement therapy in helping smokers quit.
The guidelines assert that the health priority is smoking cessation, not nicotine abstinence. Switching from smoking to vaping is recognized as an immediate improvement to current and future health. While vaping is not risk-free, it is far less harmful than continued smoking, with considerably lower cancer risks. In fact long-term vaping has been found to improve smoking-related diseases like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and asthma. The potential risks of long-term vaping, such as increased risks of lung cancer, COPD, and cardiovascular diseases, are acknowledged but are likely significantly lower than the risks associated with smoking.
To this effect, the guidelines provide practical advice for health professionals on supporting smokers to quit with vaping, covering aspects like device selection, nicotine strength, flavours, technique, and quitting vaping. They address common myths and misinformation about vaping, such as the misconception that vaping is as harmful as smoking, the “popcorn lung” myth, concerns about brain development in young people, and the idea that vaping is merely swapping one addiction for another.
Another point emphasized in the document is the importance of supporting pregnant individuals who choose to use a vape instead of carrying on smoking. Despite acknowledging the theoretical possibility of risks associated with long-term vaping, the guidelines underscore that these risks are likely significantly lower than the risks of smoking and relatively low in absolute terms.
The guidelines highlight the success of vaping as a smoking cessation aid in the UK, where it is considered a game-changer in providing a reduced-harm alternative to smoking. The evidence-based approach aims to dispel misinformation and provide health professionals with accurate information to assist smokers in making informed decisions about transitioning from smoking to vaping. Overall, the guidelines underscore the potential health benefits of switching from smoking to vaping while acknowledging the need for ongoing research and vigilance in monitoring long-term effects.