Pregnant women were handed free vapes by London council in a drive to reduce tobacco harm.
Smoking during pregnancy is dangerous for developing babies and can increase the risk of low birthweight, early (premature) birth and miscarriage. There are effective programmes to help women quit smoking.
It is not clear whether nicotine is harmful to developing babies. But the National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (NICE) states that most health problems are caused by toxins other than nicotine in cigarettes. NICE therefore recommends that nicotine replacement therapy (nicotine patches, gum and mouth spray) is considered alongside behavioural support. However, many pregnant women still struggle to quit.
With e-cigarettes, you inhale nicotine in a vapour. E-cigarettes allow people to choose the concentration of nicotine and the flavour of the vapour. The action of vaping is similar to smoking, which means the ritual of smoking continues.
E-cigarettes have been shown to be more effective than nicotine replacement therapy in people who are not pregnant. Increasingly, pregnant women use e-cigarettes to quit smoking. Before this study, it was not known how effective or safe they are during pregnancy.
Lambeth Council estimated its “stop smoking” service will save parents £2,000 a year – money it says would otherwise be spent on tobacco.
E-cigarettes may be more effective than nicotine patches for pregnant women trying to quit smoking, research found. The study did not raise any new safety concerns with e-cigarettes (vaping).
Pregnant women are advised to quit smoking because of the damage it can cause to developing babies. Many find this difficult. Current guidelines state that nicotine products (such as patches, gum and mouth spray) can help. This research suggests that pregnant women could also consider e-cigarettes.
In the study, similar numbers of pregnant women quit smoking, whether they were given e-cigarettes or nicotine patches. When the researchers looked at women who only used the treatment they were allocated (without using other products), almost twice as many women quit with e-cigarettes than with nicotine patches.
“Some women in the trial reported that they stopped vaping and went back to smoking due to concerns about the harms of vaping. Attempts to use e-cigarettes to help pregnant women quit have been hindered by widespread misperceptions that smoking is safer than vaping.”
Disinformation surrounding the use of e-cigarettes is causing pregnant women to smoke again.
Four out of 10 smokers and ex-smokers wrongly think nicotine causes most of the smoking-related cancers, when evidence shows nicotine actually carries minimal risk of harm to health. Although nicotine is the reason people become addicted to smoking, it is the thousands of other chemicals contained in cigarette smoke that cause almost all of the harm.
A controversial study that reported that vapers had the same risk of heart disease as smokers was recently withdrawn by the journal as it did not take into consideration that almost all the vapers involved were current or former smokers.
A better understanding of the effect of e-cigarettes on the heart is beginning to emerge. A randomised control trial that measured the vascular effects of smokers switching to vaping was published in December with encouraging results. Those who switched to e-cigarettes completely experienced the largest improvement in their vascular health, getting close to the healthy “control”. Larger studies with longer follow up will provide greater confidence.
Cigarettes kill over half of their long-term users. The World Health Organisation (WHO) considers the tobacco epidemic to be one of the biggest public health threats the world has ever faced, killing more than eight million people per year worldwide. Smoking and exposure to second-hand smokes cause 65,000 deaths per year in England alone. It remains the largest single risk factor for death and ill-health, and is a leading cause of health inequalities in England.
“Our Nicotine Research Group at King’s quickly picked up the gauntlet to study vaping products, investigating who was using them, how and why, as well as synthesising the global evidence on their impact on public health. The evidence indicated that when appropriately regulated and used, e-cigarettes helped smokers to stop and offered a much less harmful means of continuing nicotine use for those that wished to do so.”
– Professor Ann McNeill, Professor of Tobacco Addiction and Nicotine Research Group lead at the IoPPN, King’s College London
Statistics from NHS Digital showed that in 2018 – 2019; ‘stop smoking services’ supported 236,175 attempts to stop smoking. Those attempts in which clients used e-cigarettes have achieved the highest self-reported quit rates compared with prescription medication and Nicotine Replacement Therapy, indicating that the revisions of training based on King’s research has saved countless lives.
Protecting your baby from tobacco smoke is one of the best things you can do to give your child a healthy start in life. It can be difficult to stop smoking, but it’s never too late to quit.
Every cigarette you smoke contains over 4,000 chemicals, so smoking when you are pregnant harms your unborn baby. Cigarettes can restrict the essential oxygen supply to your baby. As a result, their heart must beat harder every time you smoke.
Cigarettes deliver nicotine along with thousands of harmful chemicals. E-cigarettes allow you to inhale nicotine through a vapour rather than smoke. By itself, nicotine is relatively harmless.
E-cigarettes do not produce tar or carbon monoxide, the 2 main toxins in cigarette smoke. Carbon monoxide is particularly harmful to developing babies. The vapour from an e-cigarette does contain some of the potentially harmful chemicals found in cigarette smoke, but at much lower levels.
If using an e-cigarette helps you to stop smoking, it is much safer for you and your baby than continuing to smoke.
Quitting cigarettes is one of the hardest things to do, as many former and current smokers know from painful personal experience. Public health and politicians must do better to help smokers quit.
A survey was conducted to gain a greater insight into the impact of misperceptions about vaping among general practitioners, smokers, and policymakers, on the future harm reduction policy in Europe and found that only 3 out of 15 doctors in Germany say they even know the term ‘harm reduction’. So, even the people who could directly help smokers improve their lives are hardly informed about harm reduction. Tobacco Harm Reduction should be integrated into modern medical education. Vaping alone has the potential to help 19 million smokers in Europe, and 200 million worldwide quit smoking. Vaping is a 95% less harmful alternative to conventional cigarettes. Doctor Konstantinos Farsalinos, cardiologist and public health expert, states that “currently available scientific evidence is crystal clear: vaping is by far less harmful than smoking and should be part of every smoking cessation framework around the world.”
Nevertheless, a worrying amount of 33% of smokers in France and 43% in Germany wrongly believe vaping is as harmful or more harmful than cigarettes. This is a massive problem for public health. Such wrong risk conceptions hinder millions of smokers from switching to less harmful alternatives such as vaping.
Additionally, 69% of smokers in France and 74% in Germany incorrectly believe that nicotine causes cancer.
So where does the disinformation come from?
Research suggests vaping is bad for your heart and lungs.
Nicotine is the primary agent in regular cigarettes and e-cigarettes, and it is highly addictive. It causes you to crave a smoke and suffer withdrawal symptoms if you ignore the craving. Nicotine is a toxic substance. It raises your blood pressure and spikes your adrenaline, which increases your heart rate and the likelihood of having a heart attack.
Not according to The British Heart Foundation.
Nor According to The British Lung Foundation
Is vaping bad for you? There are many unknowns about vaping, including what chemicals make up the vapour and how they affect physical health over the long term. “People need to understand that e-cigarettes are potentially dangerous to your health,” says Blaha. “Emerging data suggests links to chronic lung disease and asthma, as well as associations between dual use of e-cigarettes and smoking with cardiovascular disease.
Regarding the potential health effects for which the evidence is mounting, there is insufficient data to understand the full breadth of their impact on health as devices have not been on the market long enough. Especially the long-term effects of using e-cigarettes or being exposed to them are yet unknown.
Nevertheless, the evidence is clear that the aerosols of the majority of we-cigarettes contain toxic chemicals, including nicotine and substances that can cause cancer. e-cigs on their own are associated with increased risk of cardiovascular diseases and lung disorders and adverse effects on the development of the foetus during pregnancy. ENDS are undoubtedly harmful, should be strictly regulated, and, most importantly, must be kept away from children.
No other, than the World Health Organisation.
So what does Public Health England say about vaping?
Yorkshire Cancer Research supports the use of vaping products as a tool to quit smoking and this position is supported by Public Health England (now named the Office for Health Improvement and Disparities) who, in August 2015, published an independent review which estimated that vaping is at least 95% less harmful than smoking.
Since then, a number of other independent e-cigarette reports have been published by Public Health England and other national bodies. All of them have consistently reinforced the finding from previous reports that vaping is significantly less harmful compared to smoking.
The NHS also reflects this position in its guidance for smokers, stating that ‘In recent years, e-cigarettes have become a very popular stop smoking aid in the UK. Also known as vapes or e-cigs, they’re far less harmful than cigarettes and can help you quit smoking for good.’
In June 2022, an independent review into the government’s target to be smoke free by 2030 made a ‘critical recommendation’ for vaping to be offered as a substitute for smoking, and that this offer should be made alongside accurate information on the benefits of switching.https://yorkshirecancerresearch.org.uk/news/the-truth-about-vaping