Public Health England (PHE), the executive agency of the Department of Health and Social Care in the United Kingdom, in its latest evidence update report on vaping found that using a vaping product as part of a quit attempt in local stop smoking services had some of the highest quit success rates – between 59.7% and 74% in 2019 and 2020.
PHE's seventh independent report on vaping in England, carried out by researchers at King's College London, also found that nicotine vaping products were the most popular aid (27.2%) used by smokers trying to quit in England in 2020. The report noted that there is a wide "misperception" about vaping among smokers that vaping is as harmful as smoking. 38% of smokers in 2020 believed that vaping is as harmful as smoking and 15% believed that vaping is more harmful.
"There are still concerns around increasing misperception of the relative risk caused by vaping products, compared to smoked tobacco. In 2020, 38% of smokers believed that vaping is as harmful as smoking and 15% believed that vaping is more harmful. This is out of line with expert reviews from the UK and US, concluding that using regulated nicotine vaping products is far less harmful than smoking," a press note by Public Health England accompanying the publication of the report said.
Data collected over the years suggests that cigarette smoking has decreased as the use of vaping products in quit attempts increased. It is estimated that in 2017, more than 50,000 smokers stopped smoking with the aid of a vaping product who would otherwise have carried on smoking. Data from systematic reviews since PHE's 2018 report show that vaping products were significantly more effective for helping people stop smoking than NRT.
"Thousands more could have quit except for unfounded safety fears about e-cigarettes. The evidence has been clear for some time that, while not risk-free vaping is far less harmful than smoking," Professor John Newton, Director of Health Improvement at PHE said. "For anyone who smokes, particularly those who have already tried other methods, we strongly recommend they try vaping and stop smoking – ideally with additional support from their local stop smoking service for the very best chance of quitting for good," said Newton.
PHE's advice remains that smokers should switch to vaping products to help them quit smoking, but non-smokers should not take up vaping. Vaping products contain significantly less harmful chemicals than cigarettes but are not without some risks, the report noted.
Professor Ann McNeill, Professor of Tobacco Addiction at King's College London, and lead author of the report also expressed concerns that vaping is incorrectly seen as equally harmful as tobacco cigarette smoking. "What is concerning is that smokers, particularly those from disadvantaged groups, incorrectly and increasingly believe that vaping is as harmful as smoking. This is not true and means fewer smokers try vaping," McNeill said.