The government Stoptober campaign has publicly backed the use of e-cigarettes for the first time.
Until recently, most health experts have been reluctant to promote e-cigarettes because of the unknown long-term effects but this years Stoptober’s TV advert will feature their use in a major development for the technology.
The development comes after e-cigarettes were shown to be the most popular way that people quit smoking during last year’s campaign. 53% of those involved used e-cigs and helped increase the number of people taking part since 2012 to more than 1.5million.
When asked why they were now being promoted for the campaign, Professor Gina Radford, the government’s deputy chief medical office, said that they were ‘95% less harmful’ than normal cigarettes and therefor it was only right that they be included. ‘What for the first time NICE is saying is we recognised that e-cigarettes are being used by people to help them quit’, said Radford.
She argued that there is a need to ‘engage people in a discussion about how they are using them, encourage them to be using them only as part of a quit attempt…tell them clearly whilst they are much less harmful then tobacco cigarettes, they are not without all harm.’
Smoking rates in the UK have dropped steadily over the past few decades, reaching a low of around 17% in 2016 for over 16s. Experts behind the Stoptober campaign have been encouraged by new research that suggests record numbers of people attempting to quit smoking are being successful. University College London found that 1 in 5 attempts were successful in the first half on 2017, compared to 16% over the past decade.
Prof Radford said: ‘The battle against smoking is far from over – it is still the country’s biggest killer, causing 79,000 deaths a year.’ The new promotion of e-cigarettes from the government is hoped to further reduce this number and a recent statement by NHS Scotland has said that e-cigs are ‘definitely’ less harmful than smoking tobacco.
There is, however, somewhat of a caveat to all of this. NICE warns that there ‘is currently little evidence on the long-term benefits or harms of these products’ and e-cigs are still not prescribed on the NHS.
But recent developments mean that they may play an increasing role in the drive to stop people from smoking and their recent promotion could see a significant change in the tools provided to those who are attempting to quit.