In an evidence session for the UK Parliament Health and Social Care Committee Inquiry into prevention of harms and ill health caused by smoking, alcohol, drugs, and gambling, expert advisor WIPH Professor Peter Hajek told the Committee that, to prevent harm caused by smoking, ‘Alternative products have substantial potential to solve the problem for us’.
In his comments Peter said that the prevalence of smoking in the UK is declining, particularly and importantly in younger people, and that there is no evidence that vaping is a gateway into smoking, but some evidence that it is a gateway out of smoking. Comparing policies in other countries, he said that in the UK and USA, where vaping has not been banned, the decline in smoking is faster than in Australia, where a ban exists. Even aggressive pricing of cigarettes (as practised in Australia) has not achieved the decline in smoking evident in the UK. Pointing out that vaping is in fact much less addictive than smoking, he highlighted the ‘horrific misinformation’ about health risks from vaping, which has prevented many people from making the switch, and said that communicating the enormous difference in risk between smoking and vaping to encourage people to use something safer than smoking was a priority.
In response to the committee’s questions, Peter said that while research shows that smoking is more attractive to the socioeconomically deprived, adoption of vaping could also make a substantial difference for the health of this population. He added that a suggested ban on vape flavours, which are partly responsible for the success of vapes and concomitant decline in smoking, would be against the interests of public health.