EVIDENCE NOW SUGGESTS THAT VAPING IS MORE EFFECTIVE THAN NICOTINE REPLACEMENT THERAPY
As the number of vapers in England grows, unfounded risks perpetuated by some media outlets may be discouraging smokers from using vaping to quit.
Until now, E Cigarettes were commonly used in attempts to stop smoking, but substantial evidence has always been limited regarding their effectiveness compared with that of traditional nicotine replacement products.
When talking about cigarettes and being able to quit smoking, more than not, the word nicotine crops up.
WHAT IS NICOTINE?
If you have been smoking for a long time, then you may find yourself drawn to the highly addictive chemical found in cigarettes, nicotine. Nicotine is an alkaloid chemical that contains nitrogen and can be found in several different plants, including the tobacco plant and in lower concentrations in potato, tomatoes, aubergine and green peppers.
While not causing cancer or being excessively harmful on its own, nicotine can expose people to the extremely harmful effects of tobacco dependency. As cigarettes are made from the dried leaves of the tobacco plant which naturally contain nicotine, smokers can become easily addicted to smoking.
The practice of humans smoking tobacco dates back as early as 5000 to 3000 BC in Mesoamerica and South America. The most accepted date when tobacco first arrived in England was the 27th of July 1586, when Sir Walter Raleigh returned from a transatlantic voyage from Virginia. Rumour has it that one of his servants who saw him smoking a pipe for the first time, feared he was on fire and threw water on him.
With the invention of the automatic rolling machine, cigarettes have become the more popular means of consuming nicotine. Now over 6.5 trillion cigarettes are sold annually around the world which equates to over 18 billion being smoked every day!
WHAT DOES NICOTINE DO TO YOUR BODY
Whether you get nicotine from traditional cigarettes, through a Nicotine Replacement Therapy tool like gum or spray or through an e-cigarette, it effects your body in relatively short-term bursts.
Nicotine is a stimulant and when you consume it, it creates a pleasurable feeling. It elevates your heart rate, has been found to improve your ability to focus and can boost short and long-term memory. In fact, nicotine is currently being tested as a means of treating neurological diseases like Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and Dementia as it has been found to help protect the brain as it ages.
Nicotine is absorbed through your lungs, your mouth and upper throat and then enters your bloodstream. Once it is in your bloodstream, the nicotine travels to your brain where it binds with certain receptors that release neurotransmitters like serotonin. It is this chemical reaction of nicotine and your brain’s neurotransmitters that create the feeling of pleasure and keeps you addicted to cigarettes.
WHAT IS NICOTINE REPLACEMENT THERAPY?
Nicotine Replacement Therapies (NRT) are common tools of helping adult smokers to quit smoking. NRT is a type of medication that provides you with a low level of Nicotine, without the Tar, Carbon Monoxide and other poisonous chemicals that are found within cigarettes.
NRT’s have been prescribed by doctors to help ease smokers off cigarettes and come in many formats. From gum, patches, inhalers and mints, NTRs have been one of the traditional quit smoking tools that many have used to help kick the habit. However as recently suggested by Public Health England, NRTs may not necessarily be the best way.
The NHS say “There's no evidence that any single type of NRT is more effective than another. But there is good evidence to show that using a combination of NRT is more effective than using a single product.
Nicotine withdrawal symptoms usually peak within the first 3 days of quitting, and last for about 2 weeks. The concept of NRTs is to help you to replace your nicotine consumption in a cleaner format with the view of slowly reducing the amount of nicotine over time. If you make it through those first weeks using an NRT, quitting can get a little easier.
WHO ARE PUBLIC HEALTH ENGLAND AND WHAT DO THEY DO?
Public Health England are an executive agency who work hand in hand with the UK Government to protect and improve our nation’s health and wellbeing including setting up the guidelines on reducing smoking rates in adult smokers.
Public Health England has released its 7th report on vaping in England, which suggests that vaping is a better form of equipment to help break the habit of quitting smoking. This new research was carried out by Kings College London and came out with the following results:
- nicotine vaping products were the most popular aid (27.2%) used by smokers trying to quit in England in 2020
- In 2017, it was estimated that more than 50,000 smokers stopped smoking with the aid of a vaping product who would otherwise have carried on smoking if e cigarettes were not available
- In 2020, 38% of smokers in 2020 believed that vaping is as harmful as smoking and 15% believed that vaping is more damaging
- using a vaping product to quit smoking with the help of a NHS Stop Smoking Service had some of the highest quit success rates – between 59.7% in 2019 and 74% in 2020
This report took an in-depth look at the latest evidence on the effectiveness of E-Cigarette products in helping people to stop smoking. The report offers a detailed analysis of all the latest evidence on being able to quit smoking with the help of E-Cigarette products. The report also provides an update on nicotine vaping products among young people and adults.
HAS CORONAVIRUS EFFECTED THE RESULTS?
There has been lots of strong evidence that suggests the effects of Covid-19 can be much more serious in smokers. In March 2021, Health Secretary, Matt Hancock said “It is abundantly clear that smoking makes the impact of a coronavirus worse”.
Researchers at Guy’s and St Thomas’s Hospital and King’s College London suggest that smokers who contract Coronavirus are around twice as likely as non-smokers to end up in hospital. However, unfortunately, because it is still too early for Public Health to assess the full effect of this horrible pandemic, most of the data that was used within this report was pre-pandemic (before Covid 19).
ASH Director Deborah Arnott said, “Over a million smokers may have succeeded in stopping smoking since Covid-19 hit Britain, but millions more have carried on smoking”.
HOW HAS E-CIGARETTES HELPED SMOKERS QUIT?
As part of the UK government’s ongoing effort reduce the adult smoking rates across Britain, the NHS and Public Health England work with a myriad of medical professionals to advise and assist people in their attempts to quit. Many of the strategies include the use of NRT, pharmaceuticals and support.
According to the latest research, more and more people are looking to the following tools to help them quit:
Working with a local NHS Stop Smoking Service
Going cold turkey
Using E-Cigarettes and Vaping devices
Using Nicotine Replacement Therapy
Or the use Varenicline (Champix)
In England, last year (2020), E-Cigarettes and vaping products were the most popular aid used by smokers trying to quit. 27.2% of quitters used e-cigarettes, 8.2% used Nicotine Replacement Therapy and 4.4% used a prescribed medicine like Champix.
E-Cigarettes have come a long way from when it first came onto the UK market and the evidence from Public Health England suggests that as vaping gains even more popularity, then the rate of smokers being able to successful quit increases.
In 2017 in England, it was estimated that more than 50,000 smokers quit the habit of smoking with the help of an E Cigarette. Without vaping, who knows whether they would have been able to quit smoking.
Smokers that have been able to quit using E-Cigarettes and the support from an NHS Stop Smoking Services were found to have some of the highest success rates of between 59.7% and 74% in 2019 to 2020.
“vaping is 95% less harmful than smoking tobacco cigarettes and the proportion of vapers who also smoke, or ‘dual users” – Public Health England
The Data that was given from Public Health England since the 2018 report, show that vaping products (e-cigarettes) were significantly more effective and popular for helping people quit smoking than NRT.
THE MISINFORMATION ABOUT E-CIGARETTES
However, there is still a lot of misinformation about vaping that is being perpetuated by many mainstream media outlets. These negative headlines are generally based on limited research in very small and isolated studies that may have compared vaping to not smoking.
For example, there was a study by Andrew Stokes of Boston University that found that people who only vaped had much lower levels of cardiovascular danger signs compared to people who smoked. Of the 7,000 people in the study, only 10% used both cigarettes and vapes – so only 700 people. The study went on to say that smokers who smoke cigarette and used vapes at the same time had the same levels of inflammatory and oxidative stress, which lead to heart failure, compared with people who only smoke.
The headline from the Daily Mail on January 4th claimed “Smokers Who Occasionally Vape Are Just As Likely To Suffer From Heart And Lung Damage As Those Who Only Smoke Cigarettes, Study Finds”. This is a blatant example of how media is using sensationalism and fearmongering to sell newspapers at the detriment of peoples’ health.
In 2020, 38% of smokers believed that vaping was as harmful as smoking tobacco cigarettes and 15% of people thought that it was even worse, but this would of been due to FAKE news and sensationalize headlines that are filling the newspapers.
Perhaps a responsible journalistic approach would have used a headline like “A New Study Found That People Who Use E-Cigarettes Had Much Lower Levels Of Cardiovascular Compared To People Who Smoke Cigarettes”.
Public Health England’s advice remains that smokers should consider using an e-cigarette or switch to vaping as part of their attempt to quit smoking.
Professor John Newton, Director of Health Improvement at Public Health England, says:
“Smoking is still the leading preventable cause of premature death and disease – killing almost 75,000 people in England in 2019. The best thing that a smoker can do is to stop smoking completely and the evidence shows that vaping is one of the most effective quit aids available, helping around 50,000 smokers quit a year.
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.
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.”
Vaping products contain significantly less harmful chemicals than cigarettes and are not without some risks but have Public Health England’s backing. If all the information related to vaping compared to smoking cigarettes was made clear by the media, then the number of smokers being able to quit the habit could have been substantially higher. PHE has said that the evidence has been clear for some time and vaping is less harmful than smoking.
The goal is for England to be smoke free by 2030, and the Tobacco and Related Products Regulations 2016 has been put in place to ensure that regulations around vaping are appropriate.
Deborah Arnott, Chief Executive of ASH, said,
“Rightly, since e-cigarettes emerged as an alternative to smoking, the government has sought to strike a balance between helping smokers to quit and protecting children. As ASH research included in the report for PHE shows, e-cigarette use among 11to18 year olds has to date remained low, but on the downside their potential as an adult quitting aid has not been fully realised.”
As we strive to achieve a smoke free nation by 2030 more needs to be done to support adult smokers who could benefit from switching to do so, while eliminating loopholes in the laws which could be used to promote products to teenagers.”
DO YOU WANT TO QUIT SMOKING?
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