New film by Yorkshire cancer charity aims to counter myths over vaping in bid to cut tobacco risks
A new film being launched by a Yorkshire cancer charity aiming to tackle a growing mistrust of vaping which is getting in the way of efforts to save lives.
Yorkshire has the highest smoking rate in the country and every year 4,500 new cases of smoking-related cancer are diagnosed. In 2018 over 3,000 people in the region died of lung cancer alone.
Yorkshire Cancer Research says it is not claiming vaping is 100 per cent safe - but want to push the message that it is far less harmful than smoking and can and should be used to help get people to quit tobacco.
However only 11 per cent of local authority-run stop smoking services offer vaping products.
It is understood Leeds is piloting offering vaping starter sets from next month, with Hull and Kirklees are also interested.
Studies show there is an increasing mistrust of vaping, with the proportion of those who think it is less harmful than cigarettes falling from 45 per cent in 2014 to 34 per cent in 2019.
That year a story hit the headlines globally about people in the US “dying from a mysterious lung illness linked with vaping”.
However an investigation later found people were using blackmarket cannabis diluted with vitamin E acetate - products which would not have been available in the UK shops, where vaping is a highly-regulated consumer product.
Dr Stuart Griffiths, director of research at YCR, said by the time the true cause had been found, the media cycle had moved on.
He said: “We didn’t see any of these vaping injuries that the US saw. It got a lot of coverage - but the end of the story never really came out, that it was a consumer product that had been tampered with.”
While “taking anything into the lungs is never going to be 100 per cent safe”, he says, it is a fraction of the risk smoking poses - but that message never makes it way into scare stories about vaping.
He said their film aims to allow people to have an informed view: “No one is saying these things are 100 per cent safe - there is only nicotine, propylene glycol or glycerol, flavouring, and possibly tiny amounts of formaldehyde (in e-cigarettes), there is nothing which is associated with a health risk.
“In cigarettes there are 6,000 different chemicals, many of which are damaging, including 69 that cause cancer.
“More people are thinking vaping is more damaging than smoking, as a cancer charity we want to put the facts out, that most of the scientific community, including Public Health England and the Royal College of Physicians, all agree that it is less damaging than smoking.”
It is estimated more than 622000 people smoke in Yorkshire, while 317,500 use vaping products.
The 30-minute documentary Vaping Demystified, commissioned by YCR and launched on No Smoking Day, includes an interview with Leeds consultant in respiratory medicine Professor Matthew Callister.
He said: “The message with vaping is very simple. If you smoke, vaping will massively cut the harm you do to your body and it’s sensible to swap from cigarettes to vaping products. If you don’t smoke don’t start vaping.”
Speaking in the film, Martin Dockrell, Tobacco Control Lead for Public Health England (PHE) said: “We have been following the evidence about vaping as it has been evolving, and what has become increasingly clear is that vaping is far less harmful than smoking and perhaps twice as effective as licensed medicines at helping smokers to quit.”