Although this article includes some coverage of research it’s main emphasis is on how the Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) view vaping. Their opinions are very important given that they are the most vocal opponents to traditional smoking.
To begin, ASH commissioned surveys about vaping in 2010 looking just at smokers. In 2012 and 2013 they carried out survey into vaping looking at all adults and also carried out a further piece of research in 2013 looking at children aged 11-18.
They discovered that awareness of e-cigarettes is very high in children with two out of three 11-18s having heard of them and 4 out of five in the 16-18 brackets. Most of these children who knew of ecigs believed that they were less harmful than cigarettes to both the vaper and those people experiencing second-hand vape. Half realised that there was nicotine in them.
Ash revealed that of the non-smoking children only 1% had tried an ecig and did not plan to again. This counters the worn-out mantra that e-cigs are an enticing gateway into smoking. They discovered that of those children who use e cigs they were either ex-smokers or use them alongside smoking.
An awareness level of e cigs within the adult population is very high with 91% of smokers and 71% of those who’ve never smoked knowing about them. Back to the gateway argument, only 1% of non-smokers had tried vaping and none of them reported any intention to do it again.
Use of electronic cigarettes, as was reported from many other sources, has rapidly grown both within the smoker and ex-smoker populations. This was welcomed by ASH as they see it as a gateway from not to cigarettes.
Out of smokers who had used e cigarettes 48% were using them as a way of getting out of the habit of smoking while a further 32% reported that they had quit but were using e cigs in order to not return to smoking.
When it comes to safety ASH say
“one study showed that after switching from tobacco to electronic cigarettes nicotine exposure was unchanged while exposure to selected toxicants was substantially reduced” and go on to add that “there is little evidence of harmful effects from repeated exposure to propylene glycol, the chemical in which nicotine is suspended. One study concludes that electronic cigarettes have a low toxicity profile, are well tolerated, and are associated with only mild adverse effects.”
Their position on second-hand vape is that there is an absence of risk and as an aid to quitting they acknowledge that 96% of former smokers said that ecigs had help them stop smoking.
ASH acknowledges also that there is little evidence to support a gateway theory but unfortunately despite their research findings they support the MHRA, National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) and the implementation of the EU Tobacco Products Directive in 2014. They also contend that ecig use in public will reverse the use of tobacco in public and make it seem normal again. They provide no evidence for this.
Action on Smoking and Health. Briefing- electronic cigarettes. January 2014. Available from: Ash Study PDF (accessed 03 Feb 2014).