No evidence of danger to public from passive vaping – expert

Vapers should not stand with smokers because it could entice them into smoking, but there is no danger to the public from passive vaping, an expert has claimed.

Whether or not to vape in close proximity to others is a “courtesy issue” but there is no evidence it poses health risks to those nearby, according to Professor John Britton.

The Consultant in Respiratory Medicine at the University of Nottingham said: “Vaping in an enclosed space… is a courtesy issue. There’s no evidence of harm to other people. Most of what comes out in the vapour is water.

“It’s a courtesy issue, and if you send the vapers out to smoke or to vape with the smokers you are putting them directly into contact with the drug they are trying to quit.

“You wouldn’t send the methadone user out with the heroin addicts.”

Prof Britton was speaking at a Science Media Centre briefing with Ann McNeill, Professor of Tobacco Addiction, National Addiction Centre at King’s College London and Alan Boobis, Emeritus Professor of Toxicology at Imperial College London.

He said guidance from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice) does not recommend smoking shelters because they can legitimise the activity and be expensive.

The panel did not say what, if any, spaces should be available for smokers and vapers, only that employers should be encouraging their workforce not to smoke.

Public Health England (PHE) has said that vaping is 95% less harmful than smoking.

It has come under fire from some academics who say the organisation is wilfully ignoring mounting evidence that vaping is harmful.

Vaping
The panel said it was a ‘no brainer’ to switch from smoking to vaping (Peter Byrne/PA)

In April Martin McKee, professor of European public health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said there are enough grounds for “serious concerns” around vaping.

He told the PA news agency: “We haven’t had e-cigarettes for long enough to know the true effects.”

The panel said it was a “no brainer” to switch from smoking to vaping, but that non-smokers should not vape as it is not risk-free.

Prof Britton said: “My position would be that e-cigarettes are not without harm, and long-term use will cause some damage, but the amount of that damage will be minimal relative to smoking.”

The panel also said it would be a “great shame” if people were deterred from vaping by the situation in the US, where regulators are examining cases of vapers with oil-like substances in their lungs.

Several deaths have also been reported while overall, more than 450 cases of a lung disease linked to vaping are being investigated.

The panel said the issue was specific to the US, with around three quarters of the cases involving cannabis products.

Prof McNeill said: “It would be a great shame if people are deterred from using e-cigarettes because what is happening in the US.

“We obviously need to keep monitoring these data to see the impact of that news.”

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