A new research conducted by the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience (IoPPN) at King’s College London has shed new light on the relative risks of vaping and smoking. According to the research, opting for vaping products with top vape flavours instead of traditional cigarettes can lead to a substantial reduction in exposure to toxicants that are known to contribute to cancer, lung disease, and cardiovascular disease. This comprehensive study, which was commissioned by the Office for Health Improvement and Disparities in the Department of Health and Social Care, represents a milestone in understanding the health implications of vaping compared to smoking.
What the Study Included
The study delves into various facets of vaping, encompassing user demographics, product diversity, health outcomes, and the public perception of risks associated with vaping. Researchers meticulously examined biomarkers of exposure – measurable indicators of potentially harmful substances in the body – as well as biomarkers of potential harm caused by either vaping or smoking.
Remarkably, the research revealed that the most robust evidence emerged from biomarkers of exposure, uncovering that vapers exhibit significantly lower levels of tobacco-specific nitrosamines, volatile organic compounds, and other toxicants linked to the major diseases caused by smoking.
What’s more, among vapers, the overall levels of nicotine were found to be either lower or similar to those of smokers. This suggests that while nicotine consumption might occur through vaping, the other harmful substances associated with traditional smoking are significantly reduced.
The report provides valuable insights into the comparison between individuals who vape and those who do not smoke or vape. Although some biomarkers in vapers were similar to those of non-smokers, there were instances where vaping resulted in higher exposure levels.
This highlights a crucial point: While vaping presents fewer health risks than smoking, it does not completely eliminate the potential for harm, particularly for individuals who have never smoked.
What the Findings Could Mean
One striking finding of the study was the disconnect between scientific understanding and public perception.
In 2021, only 34% of adults who smoked accurately perceived vaping as less harmful than smoking, while merely 11% of adult smokers were aware that nicotine wasn’t the primary cause of the health risks associated with smoking tobacco.
This disparity underscores the importance of disseminating accurate information to the public to guide informed decisions about tobacco alternatives.
The prevalence of vaping among adults has been on the rise. The latest data from the Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) Smokefree GB Adult survey indicates that vaping prevalence reached 8.3% in 2022, up from 7.1% in 2021 and 6.3% in 2020.
Notably, vaping has also gained traction among young people, with data from the ASH Smokefree GB Youth survey revealing a substantial increase in current vaping prevalence from 4.0% in 2021 to 8.6% in 2022 among 11 to 18-year-olds in England.
Dr. Jeanelle DeGruchy, Deputy Chief Medical Officer for England, emphasized the significance of the study in providing valuable insights into the relative risks of vaping and smoking.
She highlighted that while vaping is substantially less harmful than smoking, the best choice for health is still fresh air over both vaping and smoking. She even encouraged individuals to prioritize quitting smoking as a crucial step toward improving their health and well-being.