Electronic cigarettes: the new public health challenge in England

Electronic cigarettes: the new public health challenge in England

Published on: 15/07/2023


In a lot of European coutnries, electronic cigarettes are still viewed with suspicion and, despite information from numerous scientific studies, the authorities still seem to consider them as harmful as cigarettes. This is demonstrated by the tax policy adopted with regard to e-liquid inhalation products (PLI), which are subject to very heavy taxation that does not incentivise their purchase as an alternative to tobacco.

The United Kingdom, for its part, seems to have taken a totally opposite path and represents a very interesting case and a potential example for our country and all those other nations that are fighting a very tough fight: that against smoking.

In this article we will explain what initiatives the British government has taken in favor of vaping and what results have been achieved so far thanks to these measures.

How the electronic cigarette helps to stop smoking: the UK government’s position

In October 2021, news of a revolutionary nature circulated: in those months, the UK government was considering health measures to authorize the prescription of e-cigarettes as an anti-smoking device, including through financial subsidies for smokers.

Unfortunately, it would appear that this measure did not materialize as it is currently stated on the NHS (the UK public health service) website that e-cigs cannot be prescribed.

However, despite this missed opportunity, the UK government has continued to pursue a policy of promoting vaping in order to reduce the number of smokers in the UK. And it has done so through numerous public campaigns including the well-known Stoptober. This is a government initiative that starts at the beginning of October and has now been in existence for more than 10 years. It is specifically dedicated to the fight against smoking in order to protect the health of citizens and to reduce the costs incurred by the NHS in treating the diseases caused by traditional cigarettes, a budget item that amounts to more than £2 billion.

electronic cigarette and the UK government's position

Among the main channels through which the British authorities are carrying out this campaign is the government website Better Health, which states that e-cigs “can help you quit smoking and are much less harmful than cigarettes”. It also states that ‘Using the e-cigarette is about twice as likely to stop smoking as using other liquid nicotine replacement products, such as gum and patches’.

But what convinced the British government to take such a clear stance on vaping and to promote its use as a tool in the fight against smoking?

Read also: MTL or DTL vaping: all the differences between these modes

E-cigs are up to 95% less harmful than traditional cigarettes

The British authorities chose to take this controversial route following evidence from numerous scientific studies carried out in previous years. One of these, in particular, was a decisive factor in this decision. I am referring to the research published in 2015 by Public Health England, the main points of which can be found on this page of the UK government’s official website.

Among the data that emerged during this study, the most important were the following:

  • Electronic cigarettes are up to 95% less harmful than traditional cigarettes;
  • There is no data to prove that e-cigs encourage the spread of the smoking habit among minors. This conclusion is particularly interesting and significant because detractors of e-cig tend to claim that their use may push younger people towards smoking;
  • About half of the UK population is unaware that vaping is less harmful than smoking.

Reduction in smoking in the UK: data from the Office for National Statistics

Of course, the eventual success of the UK authorities’ original anti-smoking policies must be measured against the results actually achieved. And the data obtained so far seem to be rather comforting!

In particular, here is what a report published by the Office for National Statistics and entitled ‘Adult smoking habits in the UK: 2021’ states:

Reduction in smoking in the UK

  • 2021 saw the lowest ever proportion of smokers in the total UK population, at 13.3 per cent. This figure has steadily decreased over the last 12 years;
  • at the same time, the number of regular users reached an all-time high at 4 million vapers;
  • The credit for the reduction in the number of smokers would also be attributed to the spread of e-cigarettes as an alternative to traditional cigarettes.

Read also: Can you enter the stadium with an electronic cigarette? Here’s what the law says

In conclusion

For several years now, the UK has chosen to focus on vaping as a solution to the scourge of cigarette smoking by adopting a strategy that is revolutionary in some ways: promoting e-cigs as a less harmful alternative to tobacco.

It is a bold choice that, according to the latest statistics, would seem to have achieved very good results. But the British example has not yet convinced Europe to do the same and e-cigarettes are still considered to be on a par with cigarettes.

Taking into account the very interesting information from the above-mentioned scientific studies, we can only hope that Europe will soon decide to take a similar path to that chosen by the United Kingdom.

By the way come to visit our vape products on our e-shop of Terpy!