Despite being dogged by strict government regulation and social stigma, the vaping industry has been effectively and efficiently aiding people to kick their smoking habits for several years.
Health organisations have long been conducting studies on the relative benefits of vaping in comparison to smoking, but now it seems as if they’re finally acknowledging the advantages of vaping as a method of smoking cessation. As such, in 2017, the National Health Service (NHS) officially advocated vaping as a viable way to quit smoking as part of their annual STOPtober campaign.
What is the STOPtober campaign?
STOPtober is a yearly campaign set up and spearheaded by the NHS in England that takes place throughout the month of October. The campaign is focused on the idea that if someone stops smoking for at least a month, they’re 5 times more likely to quit smoking for good.
In previous years, the NHS has advocated the use of nicotine replacements like gums, inhalers, patches and other medication to stop cravings. They have also offered several support programs, from one to one therapy sessions to free mobile apps to help you stay on track.
This year, the organization has included vaping devices as one of the recognised “stop smoking options” listed on its website. This came as a surprise to many, as vaping in England and the rest of the United Kingdom is under the restrictions of the Tobacco Products Directive which heavily regulates all nicotine products, including e-cigarettes. Although vaping is not illegal in England, these regulations are meant to discourage vape use.
Vaping and the STOPtober Campaign
So with the current tough regulations in England regarding vape use, why was it included in the campaign? There are several speculatory chains of thought regarding this, but many believe that this move resulted from this year’s smoking statistics. According to recent studies, 2017 has seen the sharpest decline in smoking rates in over a decade, and, for the first time ever, more than half of the estimated 2.9 million people in the UK who use e-cigarettes have given up smoking tobacco for good.
In fact, if you check out the official STOPtober campaign website, the website cites studies that show users who have combined vaping with smoking cessation therapy have the highest quitting rates in the country. Similar evidence has been around for years, with vaping advocates repeatedly citing these studies, especially during the height of the TPD outrage, but it seems that regulatory health bodies are only just beginning to acknowledge their validity now.
Of course, championing e-cigs as the primary option for smoking cessation will also benefit the NHS financially. Each year, the NHS spends around £2 billion yearly due to tobacco and smoking-related problems. And, although smoking rates have been decreasing slowly over the past few years, a large part of the population is still smoking or struggling with stopping. Finally adopting what is a rather successful component in the effort to quit smoking is a wise move by the NHS, and will hopefully further decrease the number of active smokers in the UK.
Effects of the STOPtober Campaign
For the vaping industry, the STOPtober campaign was a huge success. As a result of the government’s promotion of e-cigarettes, vaping kit sales have increased by around 29%, indicating the success in the promotion of, and education about, vaping as a viable method to quit smoking.
Although official smoking rates for 2017 have not been released, both the NHS and the vaping industry are certain that it will follow the general downward trend over the last few years and hit below the 15-16% percent smoking rate from 2016. This would mean that the number of people smoking in the UK will be at its lowest since records began. In 1974, over 50% of men in Britain were smokers; which has fallen to just 19.1% in England in 2015. Similarly, just over 40% of women smoked back then and last year research shows it was only 14.9%.
Hopefully, with the continuation of vaping being promoted as a successful method to quit smoking, the number of adults, currently at 9.4 million, smoking in the United Kingdom will decline equally as rapidly - if not more so.
The Future of Vaping
So what does this say about the future of vaping in England and the rest of the UK? For the vaping industry, the inclusion of e-cigarettes in the NHS campaign is a huge step, one that will hopefully eliminate the stigma associated with vaping. The majority of the general public drastically over-estimate the health risks of vaping, but with the inclusion of vaping in the NHS campaign, and continued government support afterwards, the stigma and amount of wild misinformation surrounding the industry should reduce.
Now that the government has officially acknowledged the effectiveness of e-cigarettes, it may, in the future, mitigate some aspects of the Tobacco Products Directive. Since the number of e-cigs actually containing nicotine make up only a small part of the industry, and do so, on the whole, in order to wean people off their addiction, rather than sustain it. We hope that the government in seeing the success of their campaign long-term will acknowledge that the vaping industry and the tobacco industry are in fact two separate entities, with two completely disparate goals. And, in doing so, will create a separate set of regulatory legislation for it, that encourages the growth of the vaping industry, rather than stifling it.