Smoking rates have dropped sharply in the UK over the past few years. Figures released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) last year confirmed 19% of young adults now smoke, a sharp drop from 26% seen just six years previously. Public Health England has already given its approval to e-cigarettes as a valid smoking cessation tool, and the prospect of vaping being offered on prescription is still floating around as well.
NICE decision on vaping
Now, NICE – the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence – has come out in support of electronic cigarettes as a good solution for those wanting to quit smoking. They have issued new guidance for those working in the health and social care sectors who may encounter smokers who wish to quit, or who are using e-cigarettes already.
Perhaps the most appealing part of the guidance is this: “The committee considered it likely that they (e-cigarettes) are substantially less harmful than smoking.” They cautioned that vaping is “not risk free” and mentioned that the long-term impact of vaping is still developing, both for short-term and long-term vapers. However, the message is clear – electronic cigarettes are increasingly being recommended as a healthier alternative to smoking by many recognised bodies and health organisations.
Statement from Deputy Chief Executive at NICE
Professor Gillian Leng is the Deputy Chief Executive and the director of Health and Social Care at NICE. She said it was “imperative that we give people the support and advice they need to quit [smoking].”
She also reiterated their belief that e-cigarettes are far less harmful than normal tobacco cigarettes. The recognition that many people try vaping to help them stop smoking is clearly there, and it is reassuring that the UK seems to be ahead of many countries in this respect. Several governments elsewhere seem intent on categorising vaping with cigarettes, which is counter-productive and doing nothing to help smokers quit.
5.6% of people in the UK used e-cigarettes in 2016
That statistic comes from the ONS and seems to indicate more people are switching to vaping to help them quit cigarette smoking. The chief executive of Public Health England, Duncan Selbie, said last year that almost 50% of all adults were smokers in 1974. That figure has dropped hugely to just 15.8% of all adults in 2016.
Vaping has only been around for a fraction of that time, but the encouragement given by PHE and now NICE will surely persuade many more smokers to give up with the help of e-cigarettes. It is hard to imagine a time when no one smokes, but the sharp decline in smokers since the Seventies cannot be denied. Furthermore, with vaping now available as a practical and workable tool to help people quit, we expect that figure to drop still further.
What are your thoughts on the latest input from NICE? Are you pleased the health bodies and organisations in the UK are supporting vaping as a tool to help quit smoking? Let us know in the comments below.