London – Successive campaigns by British health authorities advising smokers to switch to e-cigarettes because they’re almost completely harmless in comparison to tobacco cigarettes appear to have failed after the results of a new poll of the UK public showed most were unaware of such advice.
In a Google Survey carried out on behalf of British online vaping retailer Electric Tobacconist in June, the majority of respondents (47.3%) said they had not heard anything about advisories from Public Health England (PHE) that e-cigarettes were far better for people’s health compared to smoking cigarettes, which kill an estimated 100,000 people around the UK each year.
PHE, the top government health authority in England, has published a number of position papers into the use of electronic cigarettes, following researching into possible harms to human health by using them. The most recent was issued last year in a review into vaping undertaken by leading and independent tobacco experts. Its chief conclusion was that “vaping poses only a small fraction of the risks of smoking and switching completely from smoking to vaping conveys substantial health benefits” and that “e-cigarettes could be contributing to at least 20,000 successful new quits per year and possibly many more.”
Vaping Message Filtering Through
The Electric Tobacconist survey found, however, that some people (23.5%) were aware of PHE’s findings and advice about vaping while others thought they had heard about it (13.6%) and still others were not sure (25.6%). As for the health body itself, most people said they knew what PHE was (58%) while 27.3% had “no idea” and 14.7% were unsure what the executive agency of the Department of Health and Social Care was.
The NHS also advises that smokers switch to vaping as part of its annual Stoptober stop-smoking campaign, and the majority of those who took part in the online survey (38.8%) were aware of this. But 31% did not know anything about it, despite widespread advertising of the campaign each year, while 17.8% were not sure and 12.4% said they might have heard about the NHS urging smokers to vape instead.
Respondents were also asked if they are or were a smoker and if they would switch to e-cigarettes based on advice from the NHS and PHE. Most – 35.2% – said no, they didn’t think they would, followed by 32.7% who said they definitely would as it’s better for health, 20.4% who would want more information first and 11.7% who said they might make the change to vaping.
On the Vaping Fence
Underscoring the need for more public knowledge about vaping and its health benefits compared to smoking, which kills at least 8 million people around the world each year, according to new figures from the World Health Organization, respondents to the poll were asked if their overall impression of e-cigarettes was good or bad. The majority – 28.8% – said they were not sure and almost the same amount (28%) agreed that they might be good. Just 16.6% said they believed that e-cigarettes were definitely a force for good.
Pascal Culverhouse, managing director of Electric Tobacconist, said progress was nonetheless being made in the war against tobacco and giving people the information they need to make informed decisions about e-cigarettes as a workable smoking-cessation method.
“Our survey shows that while the vaping message from British health authorities is getting through, there’s still a long way to go,” he said. “In a way, it’s not all that surprising, as vaping is still quite new here, and it will surely take a while for people to gain a complete understanding of what e-cigarettes are and the benefits of using them compared to smoking.”
For more information about the survey or Electric Tobacconist, or to schedule an interview, please contact:
Managing Director, Electric Tobacconist