February 8, 2024
Alternative products have ‘substantial potential’ to solve the problem of the harms caused by smoking, a Commons Committee has heard.
In his evidence to the Health and Social Care Committee’s enquiry into the prevention of harms and ill health caused by smoking, alcohol, drugs, and gambling, Professor Peter Hajek from the Wolfson Institute of Population Health at the Queen Mary University of London added that a suggested ban on vape flavours, which are partly responsible for the success of vapes and concomitant decline in smoking, would be against the interests of public health.
Observed that the prevalence of smoking in the UK is declining, particularly in younger people, he said there is no evidence that vaping is a gateway into smoking, but some evidence that it is a gateway out of smoking.
He noted that countries where vaping had been banned showed a slower decline in smoking rates compared to countries such as the UK and the US where vaping was permitted. Even Australia’s aggressive pricing of cigarettes had not achieved the decline in smoking evident in the UK.
Pointing out that vaping is in fact much less addictive than smoking, Professor Hajek highlighted the ‘horrific misinformation’ about health risks from vaping, which has prevented many people from making the switch.
“Communicating the enormous difference in risk between smoking and vaping as a way to encourage people to choose activities safer than smoking was a priority,” he added.
In response to the committee’s questions, Professor Hajek said that while research shows that smoking is more attractive to the socioeconomically deprived, adoption of vaping could also make a substantial difference for the health of this population.