All recent studies are overwhelmingly in favour of vaping over smoking. At the time of writing this article, we are now 8 years on from the famous 2015 revelation from Public Health England that vaping is 95% less harmful than smoking.
Since then the government has gone on to produce 7 more articles, with each year bringing more and more evidence to the table of vaping’s superiority vs cigarettes.
Vaping is now considered by healthcare and medical experts, anti-smoking tsars, policy makers and many people on the street as a cheaper, less harmful alternative, that carries the highest success rates for quitting of any other option to-date, including traditional Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT) like nicotine patches and gum. We summarised these findings and more in our guide, Finding The Right Alternative.
The most recent report published on the 29th September 2022, that they would not explore the effectiveness of using vaping to quit in this instance, feeling they cannot stress any further just how beneficial it can be to quitters than they had already done in their previous February 2021 report which presented a great deal of evidence in favour of this.
With these reports being widely considered to be the most comprehensive and unbiased in the world, such a consistent finding in favour of vaping says a lot about it’s relative safety vs smoking. Despite this however, there are still plenty of negative headlines that have circulated – often born of misinformation, one-off extreme cases drawing hype, or incidents abroad where safety regulations are less strict than on our shores.
It is important however to remember that vaping is not risk-free. Inhaling anything beyond the air we breathe is almost always going to come with strings attached. The reason experts are pushing so hard for vaping is because of its harm reduction potential vs smoking – and always with the caveat that if you have never smoked, you should not be vaping.
The September 29th 2022 evidence update from Public Health England has highlighted a major disparity between public opinion and the available facts about vaping. Harm perceptions are varied between age groups, with younger people having a better understanding of the relative risk vs adult smokers, of whom over a third surveyed in 2021 felt vaping was as, or more harmful than smoking.
If you are a potential quitter we recommend exploring these reports for yourself. They offer a fair an unbiased review of vaping’s risks and effectiveness over 8 years as the industry has grown. We’ve also summarised plenty of these findings in our blogs.
Smoking Vs Vaping: Health
Vaping is not risk free and should never be taken up by any non-smoker. Regarding health implications, there is an acknowledged need for longer term studies, and as stated in the 29th September report:
“There is a need for future research among people who vape and have never smoked. This would allow us to determine long term changes in biomarkers of potential harm exclusively due to vaping and not as a consequence of prior long‑term smoking.”
This tells us that even with all the evidence available to-date, the fact that almost all vapers featured in studies used to be smokers means experts cannot be certain anything negative they find may not just be a consequence of their habits before making the switch.
With that said, the evidence we do have available in the government reports strongly suggests that vaping carries a significantly reduced risk compared to smoking. The NHS has endorsed this also, with vaping now featuring on Their Websites as a recommended tool to be used alongside other Stop Smoking support.
By comparison smoking is confirmed as the single biggest cause of preventable death in the UK, which according to the NHS directly or indirectly causes around 75,000 deaths every year (Avg 200 deaths per day).
Aside from death, as many as 1 million UK residents suffer from a debilitating chronic disease, and 500,000 hospital admissions are caused as a direct effect of smoking.
With over 7000 chemicals present in cigarette smoke, 69 of them are known to cause cancer (carcinogens), which impact both yourself and those around passively you when you smoke. The risk of cancer from vaping appears much lower according to current data. The 2022 e-cigarette evidence report states that both passively and directly:
“Vaping reduces toxicant exposure compared with cigarette smoking”
“The reviewed studies show that compared to smoking, using vaping products leads to a substantial reduction in biomarkers of toxicant exposure associated with cigarette smoking.”
They go on to acknowledge our earlier reminder that while things look positive for vaping, long-term studies are needed into residual risks.
Smoking Vs Vaping: Wealth
When we compare smoking and vaping, more often than not we revert to questions of health and wellbeing, but the financial implications of making the switch have been making news in 2022/23. Off the back of the cost of living crisis, the government’s number-crunchers have been assessing ways to relieve pressure on those hardest hit by the economic downturn.
Vaping has actually been suggested as a way to achieve that goal because of its comparatively lower cost. The cost of smoking to both the individual and society is staggering, and it has been recognised by economists that there is a correlation between poverty and smoking – they go hand in hand.
This has actually led Lambeth council to provide free vapes to pregnant smokers in a bid to reduce health risks to themselves and their babies, with a secondary motive to remove the cost of smoking from their budgets, with forecasts suggesting many households could be raised above the poverty line by doing so.
There is also an issue of loss of earnings associated with smoking. From as far back as 2012, studies have showcased findings that smokers at that time were far more likely to have time off from work. This can be especially damaging to the livelihood of those who do not receive sick-pay entitlement.
More recent research carried out by Landman Economics (2020) and presented by leading charity Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) found that
“Smoking has a significant negative impact on individual earnings and employment prospects, with long-term smokers being 7.5% less likely to be employed than non-smokers and smokers earning, on average, 6.8% less than non-smokers. The cumulative impact of these effects across the UK amounts to £14.1bn lost in income to smokers every year.”
Is Vaping Worse Than Smoking
All the evidence we have available to-date tells us that vaping is better than smoking. While not risk-free, the health risks, financial impact and even passive effect on those around you are all reduced by making the switch to vaping from cigarettes.
If tobacco harm reduction is your goal, then vaping is now widely supported as one of the best ways to achieve it. If you are a smoker and are unsure about the right path – check out the NHS Stop Smoking Support page, where you can get expert advice.
If you want to learn more about vaping though, then feel free to explore our blogs.