Public Health England’s claim that e-cigarettes are 95 per cent safer than tobacco is outdated and misleading, according to scientists.
The government body stands by the claim – but Virginia Commonwealth University researchers said it’s based on old evidence and is no longer relevant.
E-cigarettes have changed ‘significantly’ since the studies on which the 95 per cent line is based, they said in an opinion piece.
The e-cigarettes or inhaling devices themselves are now up to 20 times more powerful than they were in 2013, the researchers said, meaning they produce more chemicals in a puff.
But the team did not offer its own estimate on how much safer they are. Experts maintain, however, that vaping is ‘considerably’ better for your health.
They also said making vaping seem totally safe attracts people who never smoked in the first place, potentially leaving them hooked on nicotine.
The editorial, written by six experts based at the US university, comes as increasing numbers of health dangers are being reported by doctors.
The US is in the middle of a vaping illness crisis, with e-cigarettes thought to have struck down more than 2,500 people and killed 55.
Regulations in the US and UK are different, with American products allowed to contain more nicotine and be more aggressively advertised.
‘It doesn’t make any sense for us to claim that we know that it’s 95 per cent safer than combustible cigarettes,’ said Dr Thomas Eissenberg, one of the authors.
‘We’ve been studying cigarettes for the last 60 to 70 years and so we have a huge database with which we can look at how many people die from that behavior.
‘We don’t have anything near that kind of history with electronic cigarettes.
‘What we do know is that they are delivering toxicants to the human lung and that over repeated use, in some cases, we see health effects from those toxicants that e-cigarette users are inhaling.
‘People are using the claim as a reason to either keep using e-cigarettes if they started some time ago, or if they’ve never used nicotine before, they hear 95 per cent safer than combustible cigarettes and they say, “Well, that’s safe enough for me” and so then they start using.’
Dr Eissenberg is a director of Virginia Commonwealth University’s Center for the Study of Tobacco Products, and published the piece alongside five colleagues.
They said the safety claim, first made by independent scientists, had been ‘widely publicized, notably by Public Health England and the Royal College of Physicians’.
They did not do a scientific study of the dangers of e-cigarettes but looked at the evidence on which the 95 per cent claim was first made in 2014.
And since then, they said, the technology of the devices and the ingredients of the liquids have both changed, and more evidence has come to light of health dangers.