It has been 20 years since the first ever e-cigarette was created by Chinese scientist and pioneer Hon Lik.
Following the introduction of this groundbreaking technology, it has developed into the juggernaut of an industry today that has helped millions quit smoking for good and created a nicotine cessation journey for many.
But despite the steps forward made to help people reduce their risks of cancer from giving up cigarettes, and vaping proving a popular alternative, the question is still raised whether vaping is better than smoking. While we are not medical experts at Pure E-Liquids, this blog highlights some of the most recent studies which shine a light on this important debate.
Why Do the NHS Recommend Vaping as an Alternative to Cigarettes
There is no better place to start for UK-based evidence on e-cigarettes than the NHS.
The National Health Service, which is publicly funded, was founded in 1948 and is the bedrock of the UK health system.
With an annual budget stretching to 190 billion per annum, a fair proportion of that is impacted by people who smoke cigarettes.
As the NHS states, smoking is one of the biggest causes of preventable death each year and roughly 76,000 die annually from the addictive habit, which causes 7 out of every 10 lung cancer cases.
So, for the NHS, they’re naturally trying to advise about effective ways to quit smoking, including in most recent years e-cigarettes, which are proving to be the most impactful method. Each year as part of their Stoptober campaign during October, which is still underway at the time of writing, they point towards e-cigarettes as an effective alternative to quitting cigarettes.
Granted they clearly emphasise that vaping should only be for adults looking to quit cigarettes, stating they are ‘substantially less harmful, although not completely harmless’, but vaping is considered a more effective method than other Nicotine Replacement Therapies (NRTs) such as nicotine gum or patches as a way to quit.
Why are E-Cigarettes More Effective Than Other NRT’s?
For decades now in UK society from the government level down to the general population, millions have tried and failed to quit smoking.
Not only is it highly addictive due to the high strength of nicotine (which is an addictive substance) but there is about a spoonful of sugar per stick too. So you can imagine how tough it is to quit for good.
Before e-cigarettes, other NRTs were successful for a wide variety of demographics but did not reach the high levels that vaping has done to combat smoking. Why has it proved thus far a better alternative that people can stick with for longer? The three main reasons are:
1. The Hand-to-Mouth Action is Familiar With Smokers
The first thing you notice with e-cigarettes is the action bears an uncanny resemblance to smoking a cigarette.
You have something typically of a small compact nature (many start with disposable vapes or pod kits which are usually small handheld devices) which you puff by inhaling from the mouthpiece.
E-Liquids contains nicotine just like cigarettes and produces a flavour, warmth and throat-hit sensation similar to smoking.
2. The Nicotine Levels in Vapes Can Be Reduced
Unlike patches, gums, inhalator sprays, lozenges or any other form of NRT, with e-cigarettes, you have many options to reduce the nicotine level. So you can match the start of the journey with the habits you have as a smoker and then drop the nicotine level from 2% (20mg nicotine max) down to even zero nicotine vapes, before eventually stopping vaping when you’re ready. It should be a smoother transition and create a scenario where you are less likely to relapse back to cigarettes.
3. Greater Flexibility Than Other Methods
There are several treatments available through the NHS and other stop-smoking services to get the support and products needed to give up smoking for good.
But sometimes they can prove ineffective or more of a short-term substitute. The reasons highlighted above could be a contributing factor towards not reaching that goal, but it may also be a lack of versatility or flexibility from the methods.
A smoker may get bored, agitated or frustrated with a lack of nicotine, and considering patches release nicotine slowly, many end up turning to e-cigarettes as a last resort. With vaping, you get a similar sensation and habit, but you can alternate between different electrical devices, providing varied levels of vapour (big throat hit, larger clouds) with a variety of flavours to keep the smoker interested long enough to put down the cigarette.
What Other Health Organisations Recommend Vaping Instead of Smoking?
Now we’re seeing a growing number of health organisations and studies highlighting that e-cigarettes may be the best method to quit cigarettes long-term, with more than four million in the UK currently. Kickstarted by the Public Health England study which suggested vaping is 95% safer than smoking, recent studies build on that. Here is a summary of the most reliable sources and what they conclude from research so far (vaping is still in the early days of research vs decades of cigarette studies highlighting the dangers):
Cancer Research UK
Cancer Research does magnificent work raising funds to provide doctors, scientists and nurses with the resources needed to beat cancer, which we stated earlier is a key reason behind the stop smoking campaigns. This organisation is very clear on the fact they believe that vaping is better than smoking as a straight comparison and although they recommend neither as a standalone product, if any adult is a smoker, they should quit right away and use vaping as a tool.
The Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) organisation do great work in highlighting a wide range of important topics regarding smoking and vaping in society. This recent study below demonstrates the myth around vaping that it is just as dangerous as smoking (some people believe more) and uses scientific research and professional opinions to highlight why this is misleading.
British Heart Foundation
As the British Heart Foundation (BHF) highlights, smoking is ‘very harmful to your heart and seriously increases your risk of developing heart and circulatory diseases.’ The work they do to clarify that e-cigarettes as of today are less harmful than smoking and should be used as a suitable alternative for adults looking to quit is invaluable.
Kings College London
At the end of 2022, prominent researchers at Kings College in London did a huge study (the biggest of its kind ever) demonstrating that using vape products instead of cigarettes ‘leads to a substantial reduction in exposure to toxicants that promote cancer, lung disease and cardiovascular disease.’
Yorkshire Cancer Research
Important research and analysis from the Yorkshire Cancer Research Organisation shined a light on the truths and concerns about vaping, pointing to e-cigarettes as less harmful by tackling the misconceptions surrounding the subject. Check out their Q and A below, or watch their fantastic video review, where they interview leading figures in the smoking cessation landscape.
University of Oxford Backed by Cancer Research UK
Finally, we have a very significant study created by leading scientists at the esteemed University of Oxford, funded by Cancer Research UK to 22,000 individuals, testing the impact of smoking cessation with e-cigarettes in comparison to other NRT’s, with surprising results.
From leading medical organisations, charities and scientific studies in the UK, so far we’re seeing support for vaping as a better alternative to smoking cigarettes despite pressure from tobacco companies and the media, particularly regarding environmental issues. Studies and cases like those reflected above continue to demonstrate how they are supporting people who want to quit smoking, which will hopefully ease pressures on the NHS and help millions of people lead healthier lives.
It has been 20 years since the first ever e-cigarette was created by Chinese scientist and pioneer Hon Lik. Following the introduction of this groundbreaking technology, it has developed into the juggernaut of an industry today that has helped millions quit smoking for good and created a nicotine cessation journey for many.