While scientists remain divided on the issue here in the U.S., a new report from Public Health England (PHE) — a division of the U.K. Department of Health — has concluded that electronic cigarettes are considerably less harmful than their analog counterparts. How much less? Well, according to official estimates, it’s somewhere in the ballpark of 95 percent.
“In a nutshell, best estimates show e-cigarettes are 95 percent less harmful to your health than normal cigarettes,” the report states, “and when supported by a smoking cessation service, help most smokers to quit tobacco altogether.”
One of the independent authors of the study, Professor Peter Hajek of Queen Mary University, London, added: “My reading of the evidence is that smokers who switch to vaping remove almost all the risks smoking poses to their health.”
However, despite these findings, the review also suggests that people generally don’t know that e-cigarettes are any better than normal ones. The study goes on to show that public misconceptions about the health affects of e-cigarettes have largely discouraged traditional smokers from making the switch — despite the fact that doing so could drastically improve their health. Nearly half of England’s population (44.8 percent, to be exact) doesn’t realize e-cigarettes are less harmful than smoking.
“The problem is people increasingly think they are at least as harmful and this may be keeping millions of smokers from quitting,” Professor Kevin Fenton, director of health and wellbeing at PHE, said in a statement, adding that “local stop smoking services should look to support e-cigarette users in their journey to quitting completely.”
It’s estimated that roughly 80,000 people in England die each year as a result of smoking-related health problems, but if all these smokers were to switch to e-cigarettes, researchers estimate that this figure could drop to just 4,000. As co-author of the study Professor Ann McNeill puts it: “E-cigarettes could be a game changer in public health.”