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An estimated 18,000 smokers in England have quit for good in 2015 as a direct result of switching to vaping, a study conducted by University College London (UCL) and Cancer Research UK recently concluded. This is a solid sign that e-cigarettes can improve health, even though vaping can divide the public opinion.

Safer than Tobacco

Giving up smoking is extremely difficult. Smokers can get addicted to nicotine in cigarettes, and also the act of smoking itself. Most smokers therefore find it difficult to quit completely by using “safe” methods such as nicotine patches.

Researchers involved in the study said that smokers who want to quit for good should first get support. Vaping can “play a role” in helping smokers transition into a tobacco-free life.

The use of e-cigarettes is considered to be significantly safer than tobacco cigarettes. Unlike tobacco, e-cigarettes do not contain carcinogenic toxins. E-cigarettes also do not emanate a smoke either. The smoke-like vapour in e-cigs is created by heating a liquid made up of glycerin, propylene glycol, water and flavourings. Nicotine may be present in varying concentrations in e-liquid, or not at all.

In the UK, smoking tobacco is the leading cause of cancer that is wholly preventable. Public health officials estimate that more than 100,000 people die every year from smoking.

The Rapid Rise of E-Cigarettes

Vaping emerged as a healthier alternative to smoking only recently. In the UK, close to 3 million are estimated to use e-cigarettes.

British public health officials have openly endorsed vaping as a good method to use to quit smoking for good. Advocates of e-cigarettes say that vaping gives users all the pleasure of smoking without any of the harm. What was once an activity isolated to counter-culture fringe groups has now become almost mainstream.

Vaping is not without its detractors. Some doctors and psychologists have raised concern that smokers who take up vaping are simply exchanging one addiction for another. The role of vaping in the public sphere has also been up for contentious debate. Britons are still uncertain whether vaping in public should be regulated or banned just like smoking.

Concerns Still Prevalent

Though many researchers praised the effect vaping has had on smokers, the study did raise some concerns regarding vaping. Most scientists cited the study as justification for England’s rather liberal attitude towards vaping. But at least one other researcher has commented that England is perhaps “too positive in its attitude” towards vaping.

The use of e-cigarettes is still being researched. Scientists do not know the possible long-term health effects of vaping. Some are also concerned that pro-vaping attitudes may encourage non-smokers to experiment with vaping, possibly leading to a smoker-like addiction.

Some doctors are also alarmed that young teens are taking up vaping more than before. Young people are vulnerable to developing harmful habits. It’s not impossible that vaping while young could lead to smoking as an adult.

While vaping “smoke” is not known to cause cancer, some ingredients in e-liquids are. A group of scientists found cancer-causing agents in the artificial cinnamon flavour used by some e-liquid manufacturing brands.

A Trend Most Likely to Continue

Regardless of the concerns, vaping is on an upwardly mobile trend in the UK. Researchers say that a 1% increase in vapers indicates a 1% increase in smokers who managed to quit. Public health officials say that vaping is 95% less harmful than smoking, which can directly lead to a reduction in non-communicable diseases like heart disease.

Vaping is rising, not only in Britain but all across Europe. The EU has moved to regulate the mushrooming industry to make products safer for public use.