A REPORT from UK health experts confirming the benefits of vaping and e-cigarettes — with the potential to save 500,000 Australian lives — has turned up the heat on the Turnbull Government’s stubborn ban on e-cigarettes, experts say.
The review of evidence on e-cigarettes commissioned by UK government-backed Public Health England (PHE) said e-cigarettes could already be helping some 20,000 UK smokers a year quit tobacco — and possibly many more.
In Australia, that figure could be up to 500,000, leading tobacco treatment expert and NSW University Associate Professor Colin Mendelsohn said.
“Australia needs to reverse its ban on nicotine-containing e-cigarettes and promote their use,” said Dr Mendelsohn.
“PHE is calling on smokers who have struggled to quit to try switching to an e-cigarette
and get professional help. The report even recommends that e-cigarettes be made
available to National Health Service patients and be sold in hospital shops.
“If two in three Australian smokers switch to vaping over the next ten years, the
premature deaths of 500,000 smokers would be averted, based on modelling in the US population.”
The report said there was “much public misunderstanding” about nicotine, with less than 10 per cent of adults understanding that the vast majority of the harms from smoking aren’t caused by nicotine.
The review found that vaping is a fraction of the risk of smoking.
It said the evidence does not support concerns that e-cigarettes are a gateway into tobacco smoking among young people.
95 PER CENT LESS HARMFUL THAN SMOKING
“Our new review reinforces the finding that vaping is a fraction of the risk of smoking, at least 95 per cent less harmful, and of negligible risk to bystanders,” said John Newton, a professor and director for health improvement at PHE.
Back in Australia, vaping advocate and Liberal Democrats leader Senator David Leyonhjelm said the Australian government ban on e-cigarettes had lost all credibility in the face of the UK report.
“Health Minister Greg Hunt (who has vowed the ban will not be lifted on his watch) has been held hostage by a group of so-called public health experts who are ideologically opposed to e-cigarettes, despite now irrefutable evidence that these products are saving thousands of lives,” Senator Leyonhjelm said.
“The Turnbull Government cannot continue to stick its head in the sand on this issue. The jury is in. E-cigarettes are just as effective, if not more so, than nicotine patches, gum and other TGA approved products.”
The PHU report found that vaping — legal in the UK as well as the EU, the US, and soon Canada and New Zealand — posed “only a small fraction” of the risks of smoking and switching completely from smoking to vaping conveyed substantial health benefits.
It found use of e-cigarettes among adults who have never smoked and less than one per cent, and e-cigarettes are attracting very few young people who have never smoked into regular use, Dr Mendelsohn said.
Despite the overseas findings, the Australian government ban on nicotine e-cigarettes remains in place.
It comes just weeks after a US National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine report on e-cigarettes.
The PHE report further found many thousands of UK smokers incorrectly believe that vaping is as harmful as smoking, and around 40 per cent of smokers have not even tried an e-cigarette.
It revealed “there is much public misunderstanding about nicotine. Less than 10 per cent of adults understand that most of the harms to health from smoking are not caused by nicotine”.
“The evidence does not support the concern that e-cigarettes are a route into smoking among young people. Youth smoking rates in the UK continue to decline. Regular use is rare and is almost entirely confined to those who have smoked,” the review report said.
Dr Mendelsohn said Australia’s National Drug Strategy Household Survey shows that smoking rates in Australia have stalled for the first time in decades.
“With smoking causing 19,000 premature deaths every year and huge financial and social costs, we need to follow the successful examples of the United Kingdom, European Union, United States and soon Canada and
New Zealand,” he said.
“If a government agency in the UK can throw its support behind e-cigarettes to save
British lives, then surely the Australian government can move to save Australian ones
The PHE called on smokers and health authorities to act now on the evidence reviewed in these latest reports.
It also called on Britain’s National Health Service to ensure e-cigarettes are available in hospital shops — alongside other nicotine replacement products such as gum and lozenges.
“Every minute someone is admitted to hospital from smoking, with around 79,000 deaths a year in England alone, said the PHE’s Dr Newton.
“It would be tragic if thousands of smokers who could quit with the help of an e-cigarette are being put off due to false fears about their safety,” he said.