E-cigarette myths busted by Bristol council as they encourage smokers to turn to vaping


Vaping, as an alternative to smoking, is being encouraged by Bristol City Council this week as they take to the streets hoping to convert people to the tobacco alternative.

They will be tackling the issues caused by carbon monoxide in the body – a substance found in cigarettes but not e-cigarettes.

Councillor Fi Hance, Assistant Mayor for Neighbourhoods with responsibility for Public Health, said: “Smoking is the biggest preventable cause of death in England, so I’d encourage smokers to try anything they can to quit. The advice from Public Health is that for people who are long-term smokers, e-cigarettes are a much better option than smoking tobacco – and they can be an effective quitting tool. E-cigarettes stills provide nicotine, which is what people smoke for, but without the damaging tar, toxic substances and carbon monoxide which cause the serious health problems.

“As a former smoker I know how difficult it can be to give up, but I’m so glad I did. As a council we’re absolutely committed to helping people stop – there’s really no better time to quit than today.”

A team from the council will be in four e-cigarette shops in the city centre on National Stop Smoking Day offering people the chance to have a carbon monoxide tests to see how levels in the body differ between smokers, and those who prefer vaping.

Marcus Munafò, Professor of Biological Psychology at Bristol University and an expert in the field of e-cigarettes, said: “Like many things in life e-cigarettes are not totally risk-free, but compared to smoking they cause a fraction of the harm. If smokers can switch to vaping that’s a good thing – and people should try to switch completely rather than smoke and vape. Many people don’t realise that e-cigarettes are much less harmful than smoking or aren’t sure – and that is something we need to address.”

However, in nearby Cardiff the government are trying to ban e-cigarettes from all public places. But it has been hit with criticism as many health organisations have acknowledged vaping can help people to quit and there are very few examples of non-smokers taking to e-cigarettes.

While they still contain nicotine – the addictive part of a cigarette – they are missing many other dangerous chemicals including carbon monoxide.

In Bristol, 21.3 per cent of people smoke, and although the council acknowledges stop smoking services are still the most effective way for people to quit, e-cigarettes can reduce harm and help people make the shift away from smoking tobacco.

Smokers can triple their chances of success by using an e-cigarette combined with attending their local support to stop smoking service.

Inner city and east Bristol stop smoking teams are able to provide services in Somali, Arabic, Urdu, Punjabi, Hindi, Gujarati, Polish, Romanian and Bangladeshi.

It is estimated that 2.6 million people in the UK were using e-cigarettes in 2015. For more details of how to access your local stop smoking service, visit www.smokefreebristol.com.

Stop Smoking Day is on March 9.

E-cig myths: Busted

Encouraging the use of e-cigs may normalise smoking again:

Smoking tobacco in enclosed public spaces is illegal, and using e-cigarettes will not change this law. Also, most of the popular e-cigarettes don’t look a lot like tobacco products so the risk of people confusing them is likely to be low. Smoking rates across England are falling and there’s no evidence that e-cigarettes are undermining this.

Vaping might be a route into smoking for non-smokers or children:

There’s no evidence to suggest that e-cigarettes are acting as a route into smoking for children or non-smokers, according to a recent review by Public Health England. Over 99% of the vaping youth are already tobacco smokers. Public Health England found that e-cigarettes may be contributing to the falling smoking rates among children and young people.

E-cigs can be as damaging to your airwaves as smoking a normal cigarette:

Vapour from e-cigarettes does not contain the tars, carbon monoxide and cancer-causing poisons found in tobacco smoke. The myth arose because some people have had a reaction to some of the flavourings added to the vaping liquid. Vaping is thought to be at least 95% less harmful than smoking cigarettes. There are detectable levels of harmful chemicals in e-cigarette vapour, but these are often at very low levels and it’s not clear they are actually harmful at those levels.

E-cigs are dangerous and often blow up:

Incidents involving e-cigarettes are very rare. The vast majority occur when the e-cigarette product is charging. Cheap chargers have been highlighted by the Trading Standards Institute as a potential fire hazard. Few injuries have been caused by defective e-cigarettes, but it is sensible to buy e-cigarettes and chargers from a good supplier, avoiding the cheapest unbranded products, and using the correct charger for the product.

Tobacco use down, vaping up

The 2015 New Hampshire Youth Risk Behavior Survey released last month showed the use of electronic cigarettes among state teens has exceeded the use of any other substance. Wikimedia Commons photo

The 2015 New Hampshire Youth Risk Behavior Survey released last month showed the use of electronic cigarettes among state teens has exceeded the use of any other substance. Wikimedia Commons photo

DOVER — Like a game of whack-a-mole, electronic cigarettes have replaced traditional tobacco products as a health concern among area youth. That’s according to the latest in a series of statewide surveys on health-related teen behavior.

Use of electronic cigarettes, e-cigs or vaping, has exceeded the use of any other substance while traditional tobacco use — cigarettes, cigars and pipes — is down, according to the 2015 New Hampshire Youth Risk Behavior Survey released last month by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Lori Garand, who teaches health at Winnacunnet High School in Hampton, said aggressive marketing of e-cigs and vaping products has led to the proliferation of use among teenagers. “This is who the companies want,” she said. “They’re owned by the tobacco companies and there’s a reason why they’re doing it.”

Garand said while traditional smoking is down among teenagers, a lot of tobacco users simply switched out regular cigarettes for electronic ones.

“I almost don’t need to talk to kids about tobacco anymore,” she said. “But electronic cigarettes are marketed with flavors like ‘cookies and cream.’ All these things entice kids.”

According to the N.H. Department of Health and Human Services, 14,837 students in 67 New Hampshire high schools were surveyed. Of the 67, 12 are in the Seacoast Sunday readership area — Sanborn, Epping, Exeter, Portsmouth and Winnacunnet, which were classified in the survey as Seacoast schools; and Dover, Farmington, Nute (Milton), Oyster River (Durham), Somersworth, Spaulding (Rochester) and Bud Carlson Academy in Rochester, which were classified as Strafford County schools.

The survey is used by schools, law enforcement and government officials to set priorities and make policies. The survey covers behaviors such as bullying, sexual activity, texting while driving, driving without a seatbelt and drug and alcohol abuse.

E-cigs use a heating element to vaporize a liquid to be inhaled. According to the survey, one-fourth of students statewide reported using the devices at least once in the 30 days before the survey. That number was 28 percent for Seacoast schools and 30 percent for Strafford County schools.

Molly Martuscello, coalition coordinator at Bridging the Gaps, a drug-and alcohol-abuse prevention program in Rochester, said regular smoking is decreasing among teenagers thanks in large part to national anti-smoking advertising campaigns.

“But we see an increase in vaping,” she said. “You’re seeing more stores pop up now. It’s becoming a bit more mainstream.”

Martuscello said access to e-cigs is easier than regular tobacco products for teens.

The debate about e-cigs’ continues. Originally introduced to the public as a way to help people quit smoking, concerns have grown about their health effects compared to regular tobacco.

“There’s little research on the consequences of e-cigs,” said Vicki Hebert, coalition coordinator at Dover Youth to Youth, an after-school drug-prevention program coordinated by the Dover Police Department Community Outreach Bureau. “A lot of companies are advertising it as a safe alternative and the perception is that it’s safer among teenagers.”

The survey provided good news for those who want to see less smoking. Those who reported themselves as currently smoking cigarettes fell from 21 percent to 9 percent. Among Seacoast schools, those who reported smoking in the last 30 days was 9 percent, while it was 12 percent among Strafford County students.

Dana Mitchell, coordinator of Dover Youth to Youth, said no distinction should be made between e-cigs and the real thing.

“Nicotine is nicotine,” Mitchell said. “It’s one of the most addictive drugs out there. It acts fast and holds on. Kids think it’s safe, and the research is so new that we don’t know what the long-term consequences are.”

Mitchell said his group is trying to convey that e-cigs are equally as addictive as regular tobacco. “You’re putting a chemical in your body,” he said.

According to the survey, alcohol remains the most-consumed substance, with 11 percent saying they drank before age 13, and 30 percent of all high school students statewide saying they currently drink. Among Seacoast schools, 34 percent reported they had at least one drink in the 30 days before the survey, while Strafford County schools listed 34 percent.

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E-cigarettes helped up to 22,000 English smokers quit in 2014

Researchers from University College London have taken an in-depth look at smoking cessation data and the role of e-cigarettes. The findings trumpet the praises of e-cigarettes as an aid to quitting conventional cigarettes, although their trumpets are slightly more muted than those from other quarters.
[Man smoking an e-cigarette]
E-cigarettes divide the scientific community. Recent research delves into the data for answers.

Over the past few years, for better or worse, e-cigarettes have barely left the headlines.

As of early 2014, there were 466 brands and 7,764 unique flavors of e-cigarette products.

From 2003-2014, the sale of e-cigarettes has grown exponentially year on year. This surge has prompted much debate and investigation.

Health concerns over carcinogens and worries that e-cigarettes offer a newer, softer route into the world of tobacco smoking have dominated popular news.

Despite the clear and unabashed prevalence of this new trend, data and analysis regarding its effectiveness as a smoking cessation aid is difficult to dissect.

The tough data of quitting

Reliable information is hard to come by, partly because the habit of smoking is a fluid issue; some people smoke occasionally, some smoke both cigarettes and their electronic counterparts, others fluctuate between the two, and others might intermittently use other nicotine replacement aids, like patches or gum.

To further muddy the murky waters, some smokers quit tobacco but then take up e-cigarettes as a way to prevent relapse. And when has a quitter quit? After 3 clear months? Or maybe 12 months of abstinence? The variables to consider are bewildering.

The team from University College London (UCL) delved into questionnaire data taken during the stratospheric rise of e-cigarettes; they recently published their findings in the journal Addiction. According to author Prof. Robert West:

“E-cigarettes appear to be helping a significant number of smokers to stop who would not have done otherwise – not as many as some e-cigarette enthusiasts claim, but a substantial number nonetheless.”

The team found that 16,000-22,000 people in England (who would have otherwise continued smoking) stopped smoking courtesy of e-cigarettes. These results seem like positive findings, and to a certain extent, they are. However, they are substantially less than the numbers given by some e-cigarette supporters and manufacturers; plenty of questions remain.

Smoking statistics

Below is the rough train of thought that the UCL team used to arrive at the report’s findings:

  • In early 2014, 19.3% of people over 16 years of age in England smoked, equating to 8.46 million people
  • During 2014, 37.3% of the English smoking population attempted to quit at least once (3.16 million people)
  • Of those individuals who tried to quit, 28.2% or 891,000 people, used e-cigarettes rather than nicotine replacement aids, such as patches, or counseling
  • At the 1-year mark, success rates for quitting without any assistance, including nicotine replacement, is roughly 5%
  • Questionnaire data has shown that using an e-cigarette in a quit attempt increases the chances of success by around 50%, compared with no help or buying nicotine replacement items from a shop (in the UK, nicotine replacement therapies purchased from a shop have been found to have no increased success rate, unless they are accompanied by professional support)
  • It is therefore estimated that 2.5% of the smokers who used an e-cigarette in their quit attempt in England (22,000 individuals) succeeded who would have failed if they had used nothing or nicotine replacement from a shop.

The results seem to show that e-cigarettes, at least as far as quitting smoking conventional cigarettes is concerned, have had a positive impact on the problem. But there are still multiple unanswered questions to bat around.

Deepening e-cigarette queries

Although the UCL team has access to reams of data, there will always be questions that cannot be answered without further, more pointed information mining. One question, raised by dissenters, is that of non-smokers being tempted into smoking tobacco by the lure of e-cigarettes. The UCL team rejects this:

“Regular use of e-cigarettes by never smokers is extremely rare, and the decline in smoking prevalence in young people has been as great or greater than in previous years.”

Other questions that the authors hope to answer in the future include the issue of whether using e-cigarettes while continuing to smoke might reduce the number of attempts at quitting further down the line.

Prof. West also asks whether smokers who quit using e-cigarettes might be more or less prone to relapses. These questions, and others like them, will take many years and great silos of data to illuminate.

Medical News Today recently covered research that pointed in the opposite direction and asked whether e-cigarettes might reduce chance of smokers quitting.