New TV adverts encouraging the use of E-cigarettes to quit smoking are to be launched by Public Health England – just as other health officials warn there is little evidence they are safe. The new campaign, due to start next month, is the first time that the organisation has thrown its weight behind vaping on national television.
Public Health England (PHE) has previously sparked controversy after declaring that e-cigarettes are 95 per cent less harmful than tobacco, and calling for them to be prescibed on the health service.
But just yesterday, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice) – which decides which treatments should be funded – issued guidance expressing caution about the risks and benefits of vaping.
Nice said: “The draft guideline does not list e-cigarettes as recommended aids to stop smoking however it does say that advice should be offered on their use.
“It acknowledges that, although some people have found e-cigarettes helpful to quit smoking and that PHE and the Royal College of Physicians have stated that they are significantly less harmful than tobacco, there is currently little evidence on their long term benefits or harms.”
The PHE Stoptober campaign, which starts on October 1, will feature e-cigarettes in the TV advertisment and will do more to encourage smokers who are keen to try e-cigarettes to help them stop smoking.
Professor John Newton, director of health improvement at PHE, said: “E-cigarettes are now the most popular way to quit in the country with half of all those taking part in Stoptober last year using an e-cigarette.
“The evidence is clear – vaping is much less harmful than smoking – a fraction of the risk.
“So, if you’ve struggled with quitting before, an e-cigarette may be the best option for you.”
England’s deputy chief medical officer Professor Gina Radford said: “The battle against smoking is far from over – it is still the country’s biggest killer, causing 79,000 deaths a year.”
New figures suggest more smokers successfully quit in the first six months of 2017 than ever before.
Quitting success rates are now at their highest for at least a decade in England, standing at 19.8 per cent for the first six months of this year. Over the last decade, the average has been 15.7 per cent.
University College London researchers defined successful quitting as not having smoked in the previous 12 months. Last year, 53 per cent of all those taking part in Stoptober opted to use an e-cigarette as a quitting aid, according to PHE. E-cigarettes are not available on prescription via the NHS.