Home Business News Vaping in the quest for successful smoking cessation

Vaping in the quest for successful smoking cessation

by LLB Reporter
9th Apr 24 8:57 am

There’s no doubt about the health risks associated with smoking. Tobacco remains the single biggest cause of illness and preventable death in the UK.

At least 1 in 2 smokers die prematurely due to their smoking, and more recent estimates suggest this figure could be as high as 2 in 3.

Every year around 80,000 people in the UK die from smoking, with many more living with debilitating smoking-related illnesses. Plus, Smoking increases the risk of developing more than 50 serious health conditions.

The good news is that smoking rates have fallen significantly, but smoking still accounts for more years of life lost than any other modifiable risk factor. Around 6.1 million people in England still smoke and smokers see their GP over a third more often than non-smokers. Smoking is also linked to nearly half a million hospital admissions each year.

Everyone who smokes can benefit from stopping, whatever age. Data shows that ceasing to smoke at the age of 30 can lead to a gain of almost 10 years of life expectancy, while  stopping at the age of 60 still will gives a 3-year gain in life expectancy. Even after the onset of life-threatening disease there are rapid benefits from quitting. For instance, people who quit smoking after having a heart attack reduce their chances of having another heart attack by 50 percent.

As a result, quitting smoking successfully will not only add year’s to a smoker’s life, but it also means for that person less time in hospital and life-threatening diseases.

Kicking the habit & the vaping debate

Many thousands of people in the UK have already stopped smoking, through public health smoking cessation initiatives, programmes and products such as vaping.  In the last year, vaping has become a talking point with new law changes now on the horizon. In this next section of the e-news we look at:

  • Vaping facts – the quitting success
  • Vapes versus smoking – the difference

A research review found that people who used vaping to quit smoking, as well as having expert face-to-face support, are twice as likely to succeed as people who used other nicotine replacement smoking cessation products, such as patches or gum.

In other research, academics from the University of East Anglia (UEA) gave free vapes to smokers in emergency departments, along with advice on giving up cigarettes. The study found that smokers who were offered free vape kits and advice were 76% more likely to succeed in giving up smoking than those who just received advice.

The researchers concluded that a nationwide roll-out of the scheme could help 22,000 more people quit each year.

One of the researcher authors, Dr Ian Pope, of UEA’s Norwich Medical School, added, “Swapping to e-cigarettes (vapes) could save thousands of lives.” Hazel Cheeseman, deputy chief executive of public health charity Action on Smoking and Health (ASH), said the findings “are compelling” and should be “carefully considered by those in the NHS and local government who are planning services for smokers.”

Nicotine vaping is substantially less harmful than smoking. With vaping, one inhales nicotine in a vapour rather than smoke. Vapes do not burn tobacco and do not produce tar, TSNIs (Tobacco Specific Nitrosamines) or carbon monoxide, the most damaging elements in tobacco smoke.

With cigarettes and tobacco, one of the most harmful elements is the exposure to carbon monoxide but this risk simply isn’t present with NRT such as vaping, patches or gum. By being exposed to carbon monoxide through smoking it interferes with the delivery of oxygen to the organs in the body and, as a result, damages muscles and blood vessels.

Tar and TSNIs (Tobacco Specific Nitrosamines) found in tobacco products can, over a period of time, cause lung and other cancers.  There is NO Tar or TSNIs in vapes or any other NRT, such as patches and gums.

Plus, the effect of smoking builds up over time, hence mid to long term tobacco use can have a devastating effect on the body, unlike NRT where you don’t get this effect.

Some reviewers and researchers have said that it’s too early to tell if vapes have any long-term effects, but this simply isn’t the case thanks to the scientific understanding of human toxicology and the toxicological impact of the compounds in vapes. Such science strategies and testing can quickly identify risks including Cancer, Mutagenicity and Reproductive (CMR) issues. In fact, compounds that have these CMR risks are banned from vape products in the UK and Europe.

The lowdown on the proposed Tobacco and Vapes Bill

After many months of speculation, details of the Tobacco and Vapes Bill were finally announced last week. Rishi Sunak described it as a chance to “save thousands of lives and billions of pounds.” A consultation is planned, with the aim of announcing new rules before a general election expected in the Autumn. Retailers will then have six months before restrictions come into force. However, reactions to the proposed bill have been mixed and indications suggest that there could be significant opposition to the Bill.

Some of the key elements of the new bill are:

  • Raising the legal age of smoking every year, so that eventually no one can buy tobacco.
  • Children turning 15 this year or younger will be banned from being sold tobacco for life.
  • Ban on disposable vapes. Strengthened powers of council enforcement officer who monitor and investigate retailers, giving them the power to levy £100 fines for the new offence. This is in addition to the £2,500 fine that local authorities can impose on shops and other traders. Some have said that £100 is not enough and fines should be more in line with France’s proposed €100,000 fine. (More on this in a bit).
  • It will also become illegal to give out samples to under 18s.
  • Retailers will need to update current age of sale notices to read ‘It is illegal to sell tobacco products to anyone born on or after 1 January 2009’.
  • New powers to regulate flavours and contents of vapes and other nicotine products in the future – the Government’s call for evidence on youth vaping showed that children are attracted to the fruit and sweet flavours of vapes, both in their taste and smell, as well as how they are described. By regulating the flavours, the intention is to reduce youth vaping. However, to avoid unintended consequences on adult smoking rates, the scope of restrictions will need to be carefully considered.  It is essential that further analysis and consultation takes place before any specific regulations are introduced.
  • Potential for restrictions on design, markings, materials, texture, size and shape of vape products.

At first glance, the Tobacco and Vapes Bill may appear to be bad news for the Vaping industry. However, I don’t believe it is the Government’s intention to outlaw vaping and I don’t feel there is reason to believe that this will be the thin end of the wedge as some have declared.

Rishi Sunak was quoted as saying, “If we want to build a better future for our children we need to tackle the single biggest entirely preventable cause of ill health, disability and death: smoking.” Vaping is a vital smoking cessation tool in this health fight. No one can deny the valuable role that vapes have already played in the success story of so many people who have quit smoking and vapes will continue to aid people’s smoking cessation journeys going forward.

A thorny issue  – The disposables ban

The government’s main idea behind the ban on disposable vapes is to tackle the rise in youth vaping. However, it is vital that this is done without damaging the valuable role that vaping plays in adult smoking cessation. The plan comes as part of the government’s response to its consultation on smoking and vaping, which was launched in October 2023.  It is expected to come into force in September 2025.

The issue of a ban on vaping disposables is a thorny issue. Half the industry is in favour of such a ban and half the industry is against the ban.

Currently, much of the disposable sector in the UK is sourced from China, with little value for the UK industry. A ban on vaping disposables could redress the balance and bring the value chain behind the vaping smoking cessation sector back to the UK. This is set against a background where vaping disposables were doing a huge amount of good for public health by getting smokers to transition to vaping.

The question now is, can the vaping pod systems achieve the same without the environmental damage?  Will pods just fill the gap left behind by disposables and prevent a ban achieving its goals on youth access? Juul, a notable pod system in America, was found to be just as problematic before disposables arrived in the USA, and open systems can be unappealing to consumers, so there is a lot to play for.

The story with flavours  

The plan to restrict vape flavours which may particularly appeal to children is also intended to curb the rise in youth vaping. There is no empirical evidence that a huge choice of vape flavours delivers massive benefit to adults, or that adults will revert to smoking should flavours be restricted, because the research has not been conducted.

What’s with the packaging?

The restrictions proposed for vape packaging and flavour names also needs to be handled with caution. We need to avoid giving an impression that vaping, as a smoking cessation product, is just as, or even more, dangerous than smoking. This possible confusion is counterproductive and could have a disastrous impact on public health.

The truth is that enforcement may be the key to overcoming youth access. Children and teenagers are currently getting hold of vapes with relative ease. The extra funding for enforcement – a proposed £30million – sounds like good news and the industry hopes it has the impact needed.

Last word

There is going to be a lot to tackle over the next 12 months alongside many arising questions when it comes to vaping. The role of vapes in supporting those who wish to quit smoking is undeniable and any new legislation needs to be well researched. Any hasty changes could result in the unravelling of all the public health advances of the last few years across the smoking cessation sector.

And, when it comes to smoking cessation, the UK is one of the countries leading the way on the global stage. The UK and New Zealand, which share similar demographics and where vaping falls into the smoking cessation sector are surging ahead when it comes to adult smoking quitting figures.

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