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Let's clear the smoke of confusion: Vaping saves smokers' lives

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According to government data, Scotland is facing one of the highest smoking rates in the UK. A total of 14.8% of adult Scots are smokers, surpassing the UK national average of 13.3%.

This alarming statistic has a significant impact on the health of the Scottish population, with smoking contributing to approximately 250 out of every 100,000 deaths in Scotland in 2021, according to The Scottish Public Health Observatory. Given these concerning figures and the Scottish Parliament’s ambitious goal of achieving a smoke-free Scotland by 2034 (with smoking rates reduced to 5% or lower), one might question whether now is the best time to potentially ban one of the most effective smoking cessation tools available. However, this is the situation Scotland finds itself in.

In early September, the First Minister announced a consultation on the potential prohibition of single-use (disposable) vapes. This initiative has now evolved into a UK-wide consultation that considers substantial restrictions on vaping products. This is in contrast to the fact that an impressive 43% of smokers or former smokers in Scotland have utilized vaping as a means to quit smoking, with a significant 71% affirming that vaping has been instrumental in helping them achieve a smoke-free life.

Nevertheless, an incessant stream of negative headlines is corroding the public’s understanding of the benefits of vaping, especially among the smoking community. Alarming data from the public health group Action on Smoking and Health, published in August 2023, indicates that while 94% of smokers are aware of vaping, 40% mistakenly believe that vaping is as harmful as, or even more harmful than, smoking. This represents a concerning trend, with misconceptions increasing by 60% since 2019.

Proven and Effective

This continuous flow of negative stories, coupled with the potential for substantial restrictions, poses a threat to the progress that vaping has made over the past decade. It could prevent smokers and ex-smokers from accessing a proven and effective tool for quitting smoking.

It also jeopardizes the Scottish Government’s aim to achieve a smoke-free Scotland by 2034, potentially consigning another generation to smoking-related illnesses.

The Independent British Vape Trade Association (IBVTA), the UK’s leading vape trade association, is now seeking to challenge the misinformation that has circulated in recent months and educate smokers about the advantages of vaping.

Additionally, the industry aims to position itself as a partner not only in smoking cessation but also in preventing underage vaping, promoting responsible product disposal (including recycling facilities across Scotland), and combating illicit or counterfeit products.

While the government plays a role, the vaping industry acknowledges its responsibility. The IBVTA, representing the UK’s leading independent vape manufacturers, importers, distributors, and vendors, is launching a major national public information campaign to fulfill this responsibility.

This campaign is complemented by significant new consumer insights that provide a comprehensive view of vaping, its various devices, and how smokers are using them to quit.

Our research reveals the different types of vaping devices used by smokers at various stages of their journey to quit smoking.

Single-use vapes, due to their user-friendly nature, play a crucial role in the initial transition away from tobacco, with 53% of regular smokers and 61% of recent ex-smokers using single-use devices.

Vital Role

As ex-smokers progress beyond the initial phase of tobacco withdrawal, 43% express an interest in transitioning to refillable or pod-based systems.

This transition underscores the vital role that vaping, in all its forms, plays in helping smokers quit and preventing relapses.

While the media’s interest in vaping is undeniable, it should be based on facts and evidence, including the industry’s efforts and programs to address recent concerns.

It should also reflect the compelling evidence that vaping, particularly when using flavored devices, is pivotal in achieving the Scottish Government’s smoke-free aspirations.

Amid the ongoing debate and media coverage, we must ensure that the core message — that vaping saves smokers’ lives — remains undiluted.

Marcus Saxton, Chair, Independent British Vape Trade Association