Dangerous misconceptions about the safety of vaping are hampering the UK’s ambition to become smoke-free by 2030, campaigners claim. Mark Oates runs WeVape – which promotes the practice as a safer alternative to conventional smoking.
He points to NHS research which found that vapes are 95 percent safer than cigarettes and have helped 2 million smokers quit, according to a study last year. And of the UK’s 3.6m vapers – around 94 percent are ex or current smokers, a study by anti-smoking charity ASH found last year.
Despite the overwhelming scientific evidence, Mr Oates believes that widespread misinformation about the dangers of vaping is putting smokers off the devices.
He points to media scare stories which misrepresent the science rather than focusing on the fact that vaping is vastly safer than smoking.
But if this misinformation continues he believes it could damage the UK’s ambition to become smoke-free by the end of the decade.
Mr Oates, who began vaping to give up smoking, said: “It’s quite clear that vaping is vastly safer than smoking but that seems to get lost in terrible headlines.
“The public perception of vaping is terrible. The scientific facts don’t transfer to the public perception and that is leading people to keep smoking.
“Harm reduction as a policy works. When it comes to sex we don’t tell people to not have sex – we tell them to use protection. It’s an old fashioned thing to say just don’t do it.
“There are 15 percent of people who smoke who won’t or can’t stop – vaping would help them.
“Smoking is the equivalent of riding a motorbike without a helmet. Vaping is like driving a car with a seatbelt. There’s still a risk but it’s much smaller.
“The only way we’re going to achieve becoming smoke free by 2030 is if we make people aware of these safer alternatives.
“The biggest problem is the public’s negative perception of vaping. 74,000 a year die from smoking or smoking related illnesses but you just don’t hear about it.”
The UK has been hailed as a “world leader” when it comes to reducing smoking rates – which are currently around 13.9 percent in England.
Action on Smoking and Health (Ash) calculates that more than 1 million people in the UK stopped smoking during the lockdown period.
Mr Oates’s views are backed by Simon Lai, the CEO of Vaporesso – who spoke ahead of the annual Stoptober challenge to encourage smokers to kick the habit.
He said: “Banning vaping would eliminate an important alternative method for smokers to quit smoking. The UK National Health Service has already researched the safety of vaping for many years and we believe the UK authorities will take the proper actions to regulate the market well appropriately.
“Vaping worries in the US are more about teen vaping, which we believe should definitely be prevented, while in the UK, it’s more health-conscious and vaping is used as an alternative to smoking.”