03 Mar 2016

Public Health

Myth-busting for No Smoking Day 2016 – a look at e-cigarettes

Next week on No Smoking Day 2016 (9 March), thousands of people in Britain will try to quit smoking for good. In Bristol staff from the council’s Public Health team will be hitting the streets to encourage people to make 2016 the year they finally kick the habit.
 
Across the city smokers will be able to drop in to e-cigarette shops in four locations at lunchtime between 12 -2 to meet the team and staff from community services to find out more about what support is available. 
 
The team will also be providing free carbon monoxide tests for both smokers and e-cigarette users, so that smokers can see how much carbon monoxide is in their body and for people who vape to see the absence of carbon monoxide in their system. Carbon monoxide is one of 4,000 chemicals that enter the body when smoking tobacco – it reduces the ability of blood to carry oxygen and long-term exposure can lead to chronic health conditions such as heart disease. Other toxins in cigarettes include formaldehyde, ammonia, hydrogen cyanide, arsenic, cadmium and at least 70 known cancer causing poisons.
 
Part of this year’s campaign will focus on busting common myths about the use of e-cigarettes, which have been estimated to be 95% less harmful than smoking tobacco and are helping some people to quit entirely.
 
Councillor Fi Hance, Assistant Mayor for Neighbourhoods with responsibility for Public Health, said: “Smoking is the biggest preventable cause of death in England, so I’d encourage smokers to try anything they can to quit. The advice from Public Health is that for people who are long-term smokers, e-cigarettes are a much better option than smoking tobacco – and they can be an effective quitting tool. E-cigarettes stills provide nicotine, which is what people smoke for, but without the damaging tar, toxic substances and carbon monoxide which cause the serious health problems.
 
“As a former smoker I know how difficult it can be to give up, but I’m so glad I did. As a council we’re absolutely committed to helping people stop - there’s really no better time to quit than today.”
 
In Bristol, 21.3% of people smoke, and although the stop smoking services are still the most effective way for people to quit, e-cigarettes can reduce harm and help people make the shift away from smoking tobacco.  Smokers can triple their chances of success by using an e-cigarette combined with attending their local support to stop smoking service. Inner city and east Bristol stop smoking teams are able to provide services in Somali, Arabic, Urdu, Punjabi, Hindi, Gujarati, Polish, Romanian and Bangladeshi.
 
Marcus Munafò, Professor of Biological Psychology at Bristol University, is an expert in the field. He said: “Like many things in life e-cigarettes are not totally risk-free, but compared to smoking they cause a fraction of the harm.  If smokers can switch to vaping that’s a good thing – and people should try to switch completely rather than smoke and vape. Many people don’t realise that e-cigarettes are much less harmful than smoking or aren’t sure – and that is something we need to address.”
 
It is estimated that 2.6 million people in the UK were using e-cigarettes in 2015. For more details of how to access your local stop smoking service, visit www.smokefreebristol.com.
 
Becky Pollard – Bristol City Council’s Director of Public Health looks at some common myths about e-cigarettes:
 
Myth 1: Encouraging the use of e-cigs may normalise smoking again:

Smoking tobacco in enclosed public spaces is illegal, and using e-cigarettes will not change this law. Also, most of the popular e-cigarettes don’t look a lot like tobacco products so the risk of people confusing them is likely to be low. Smoking rates across England are falling and there’s no evidence that e-cigarettes are undermining this.
 
Myth 2: Vaping might be a route into smoking for non-smokers or children:

There’s no evidence to suggest that e-cigarettes are acting as a route into smoking for children or non-smokers, according to a recent review by Public Health England. Over 99% of the vaping youth are already tobacco smokers. Public Health England found that e-cigarettes may be contributing to the falling smoking rates among children and young people.  
 
Myth 3: E-cigs can be as damaging to your airwaves as smoking a normal cigarette:

Vapour from e-cigarettes does not contain the tars, carbon monoxide and cancer-causing poisons found in tobacco smoke. The myth arose because some people have had a reaction to some of the flavourings added to the vaping liquid. Vaping is thought to be at least 95% less harmful than smoking cigarettes.  There are detectable levels of harmful chemicals in e-cigarette vapour, but these are often at very low levels and it’s not clear they are actually harmful at those levels. For example several of the chemicals claimed to be a hazard, such as formaldehyde, are in levels lower than we would normally breathe out as non smokers.
 
Myth 4: E-cigs are dangerous and often blow up:

Incidents involving e-cigarettes are very rare. The vast majority occur when the e-cigarette product is charging. Cheap chargers have been highlighted by the Trading Standards Institute as a potential fire hazard. Few injuries have been caused by defective e-cigarettes, but it is sensible to buy e-cigarettes and chargers from a good supplier, avoiding the cheapest unbranded products, and using the correct charger for the product. In 2013, 78,200 deaths in England were attributable to smoking tobacco.
 
Notes for editors

Public Health (Bristol) will be attending the following shops on the 9 March between 12-2pm. Visitors can get the latest guidance about vaping and a free Carbon Monoxide check at:

 Vapour Generation, Gloucester Road, Bristol
 Evape, Union Street, Bristol
 Evape, Broadwalk Shopping Centre
 Vaping Mill, Redfield, Bristol.