Vaping 95pct safer than smoking, UK Health Dept reiterates

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Public Health England (PHE), an executive agency of the UK Health Department, has reiterated the findings in its 2014 research that concluded vaping is around 95 percent safer than smoking.

The reiteration was made after PHE was commissioned to conduct a review of the finding, as well as other later researches which had given the impression that vaping is as harmful or more harmful than smoking.

In the review published on Aug 19 this year, PHE said recent media reports which suggested electronic cigarettes was more harmful was based on ‘misinterpreted’ research findings.

Such reports have also caused split opinions in Malaysia, with differing reactions from the Health Ministry on whether to ban electronic cigarettes.

The most damning headline reported worldwide was that electronic cigarettes vapour could contain up to 15 times more cancer-causing formaldehyde compared to regular cigarettes, based on a research published in the New England Journal of Medicine in January.

However, PHE in its review pointed out that the liquid for the electronic cigarette in that particular research was overheated to levels ‘unpalatable’ to users, thus producing high level of formaldehyde.

"Vapers call this phenomenon ‘dry puff’ and it is instantly detected due to a distinctive harsh and acrid taste," it said.

The review said users are unable to smoke under ‘dry puff’ conditions and this was backed by a subsequent research published by Society for the Study of Addiction in May.

"At normal settings, there was no or negligible formaldehyde release," it said.

The PHE said none of the studies it reviewed altered the conclusion by the 2014 research it commissioned, which was conducted by John Britton, the director of the UK Centre for Tobacco Control Studies.

"While vaping may not be 100 percent safe, most of the chemicals causing smoking-related disease are absent and the chemicals which are present pose limited danger.

"It has been previously estimated that electronic cigarettes are around 95 percent safer than smoking. This appears to remain a reasonable estimate," it said.

‘Wrong perception due to misinterpreted reports'

The PHE review further noted that misinterpreted media reports had caused public opinion to shift in thinking that electronic cigarettes were more harmful compared to regular cigarettes.

In its policy recommendation, it urged the UK government to urgently ensure clear and accurate information on the relative harm of nicotine, electronic cigarettes and tobacco cigarettes.

The review also concluded limited harm to bystanders, noting: "Electronic cigarettes use releases negligible levels of nicotine into ambient air with no identified health risks to bystanders".

However, the report noted that there were other risks in the use of electronic cigarettes, as unlike tobacco cigarettes, it contained electrical components.

"There is a risk of fire from the electrical elements of electronic cigarettes and a risk of poisoning from ingestion of electronic cigarette liquids," he said.

But the review noted that these risks were comparable to similar electronic goods and potentially poisonous household substances.

It recommended electronic cigarettes to be regulated, including having proper labelling and ‘child-proof’ packaging due to incidences where children came in possession of liquid for electronic cigarettes and drank the liquid.

The full review can be read here .

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