Public perceptions of vaping harm are not in line with the evidence – conclude the researchers at King’s College London, U.K.
The U.K.’s Office for Health Improvements and Disparities (formerly Public Health England) released the fifth annual update in the “current series of evidence reviews about the health harms of vaping, by leading independent tobacco experts.”
This issue, which was led by researchers at King’s College London, is the most comprehensive review of the health risks of vaping to date. The researchers drew on more than 400 published studies from around the world, many of which looked at signs of harm or levels of toxic substances in the body after smoking and vaping.
The report draws the following main conclusions:
- In the short and medium term, vaping poses a small fraction of the risks of smoking.
- There is significantly lower exposure to harmful substances from vaping compared with smoking, as shown by biomarkers associated with the risk of cancer, respiratory and cardiovascular conditions.
- Smokers should be encouraged to use vaping products (or medicinally licensed products) for stopping smoking, or as alternative nicotine delivery devices to reduce the health harms of smoking.
- Public perceptions of absolute and relative vaping harm are not in line with the evidence and our findings indicate that these perceptions influence subsequent vaping and smoking behaviors. We also found that interventions can influence perceptions. So, understanding and changing misperceptions is very important.
Notably, the report maintains the previous statement that vaping would be 95% less harmful than smoking but suggests new wording to express the magnitude of harm reduction.
“We are aware that summarising the relative risks of vaping versus smoking across a range of different products and behaviours and assessed across multiple biomarkers can be simplistic and misinterpreted. Based on the reviewed evidence, we believe that the ‘at least 95% less harmful’ estimate remains broadly accurate, at least over short term and medium term periods. However, it might now be more appropriate and unifying to summarise our findings using our other firm statement: that vaping poses only a small fraction of the risks of smoking. As we have also previously stated and reiterate, this does not mean vaping is risk-free, particularly for people who have never smoked.”