Oxford University Supports Vaping

A leading academic at Oxford University has vocally supported vaping as a method of reducing tobacco related harm. The public health expert wants the government to do something to combat current smokers’ fears about the technology. Professor Hartmann-Boyce thinks people who smoke have a right to accurate, evidence-based information.

Electronic cigarettes first emerged as a mainstream alternative to smoking at the turn of the last decade. Use grew exponentially as smokers found they could tailor their experience in a way that is impossible to do with traditional nicotine replacement products such as patches, sprays and gums.
Despite becoming the UK’s most popular method of quitting smoking, uptake stalled in 2019 as “a mysterious lung condition emerged” in the United States.

Despite it only affecting young people and being confined to the one country, many were swift to use the outbreak as a reason to question e-cigarette safety. Mistakenly termed e-cigarettes or vaping use-associated lung injury (Evali), smokers became convinced there was no smoke without fire as newspapers ran many negative stories.

“We now know that Evali is not caused by regulated, commercial nicotine e-cigarettes. Rather, the condition has been linked to products sold as THC-containing e-liquids. Because THC (the active ingredient in cannabis) is expensive, some sellers were cutting their products with vitamin E acetate to make the e-liquid look like it contained more THC than it did. Although vitamin E acetate is an ingredient in some foods and skincare products, it’s harmful when inhaled,” says Oxford’s Professor Hartmann-Boyce.

America was slow to recognise the truth of the matter, pressed into it by leading independent researchers and consumer groups elsewhere in the world. Despite the facts being discovered, the perception of vape products remains tainted in the eyes of many UK smokers who mistakenly believe e-cigs to be as or more dangerous than smoking.

Professor Hartmann-Boyce says: “Research shows nicotine e-cigarettes can help people quit smoking and may be more effective than nicotine-replacement therapy. In studies testing e-cigarettes as a way to quit smoking, there was no evidence that people using e-cigarettes were more likely to experience serious health issues. Also, e-cigarettes are thought to pose fewer risks to bystanders – while secondhand smoke from cigarettes kills around 1.2 million people a year.”

While most people use vape devices with a nicotine containing e-liquid, the Professor points out that this is not a hazardous substance. Unlike cigarette smoke, ecig vapour does not contain carbon monoxide, tar or the thousands of toxic chemicals produced by burning tobacco.

“The evidence we have so far shows that e-cigarettes can be an effective way to help people successfully quit smoking – and are likely to have far fewer health risks than cigarettes.

When we communicate about the risks of e-cigarettes, we need to be clear about which e-cigarettes, who might be at risk, and who might benefit,” concludes the Professor.