A new film documents the contrasting effects of smoking cigarettes compared to vaping – and the results are shocking.
Public Health England (PHE) conducted an experiment to outline the devastating effect smoking can have on your body, and showed how such subsequent damage can be avoided by switching to e-cigarettes or quitting all-together.
The footage has been released as the latest instalment in PHE’s HealthHarms campaign, an initiative seeking to encourage smokers to kick the habit this January by showing the lasting damage every single cigarette can impose.
According to research, more than 44 percent of smokers wrongly believe vaping is as harmful as smoking or are not aware it poses much lower risks to health.
Up to half a million smokers are expected to try and give-up smoking next month, and PHE is urging anyone who does to use its Personal Quit Plan to ensure they rid themselves of the habit indefinitely.
In the film, health experts Dr Lion Shahab and Dr Rosemary Leonard carry out an experiment visually demonstrating the cancer-causing chemicals and tar inhaled by the average smoker in a month, compared with a non-smoker or someone using an e-cigarette.
The experiment mimics the effects of inhaling tobacco smoke, e-cigarette vape and normal air into the lungs, with the lungs represented by three bell jars filled with cotton wool.
Each Jar is attached to a diaphragm pump, with one simulating smoking tobacco, another ‘vaping’ an e-cigarette, and the third represents a non-smoker inhaling air.
At the end of the experiment, the cotton wool in the tobacco jar is brown, along with the jar’s interior and the tube drawing in the air is clogged with tar.
In contrast, the e-cigarette jar remains largely unchanged, with the cotton wall appearing no different aside from some water vapour and slight discolouration from the e-liquid.
PHE director of health improvement Professor John Newton said the experiment visually illustrates the stark contrast between the impacts of smoking and vaping.
Research estimates that, while not risk-free, vaping is at least 95% less harmful than smoking.
Prof Newton said: “It would be tragic if thousands of smokers who could quit with the help of an e-cigarette are being put off due to false fears about safety.
“We need to reassure smokers that switching to an e-cigarette would be much less harmful than smoking.
“This demonstration highlights the devastating harms caused by every cigarette and helps people see that vaping is likely to pose only a fraction of the risk.
“We want to encourage more smokers to try and quit completely with the help of an e-cigarette, or by using other nicotine replacement such as patches or gum, as this will significantly improve their chances of success.
“If you’re trying to stop smoking, our free online Personal Quit Plan will help you find the support that’s right for you.”
Dr Shahab, a leading smoking cessation academic and associate professor in health psychology at University College London, said: “The false belief that vaping is as harmful as smoking could be preventing thousands of smokers from switching to e-cigarettes to help them quit.
“I hope this illustrative experiment helps people see the huge damage caused by smoking that could be avoided by switching to an e-cigarette.
“Research we and others have conducted shows that vaping is much less harmful than smoking and that using e-cigarettes on a long-term basis is relatively safe, similar to using licensed nicotine products, like nicotine patches or gum.
“Using e-cigarettes or nicotine replacement such as patches or gum will boost your chances of quitting successfully.”
Smoking drastically increases the risk of developing more than 50 serious health conditions, including cancer and heart disease, and doubles the risk of dying from a stroke.
Of the 6.1 million smokers in England, six in 10 want to quit but many try to give up using willpower alone – or by going cold turkey – despite this being the least effective method.
PHE believes the most successful methods use a combination of effective stop-smoking support techniques and recent research suggests that smokers who quit with the help of an e-cigarette are less likely to start smoking again.
NHS GP Dr Leonard said: “I wanted to be involved in this experiment because every day I see the devastating impact that smoking has on people’s health but I rarely get the opportunity to actually show people what is happening inside their bodies when they smoke.
“I regularly give patients advice about quitting and when I recommend e-cigarettes I am often surprised to hear the misconceptions some people have about them.
“The results of this experiment clearly show that every cigarette you smoke causes tar to enter your body and spreads poison throughout your bloodstream.
“Vaping is much less harmful than smoking and I really hope this experiment will encourage smokers to make a quit attempt. No matter how old you are, it’s never too late to stop.”
Public Health Minister Steve Brine said: “Tough Government action has driven down smoking rates to a record low, but it remains our biggest preventable killer.
“The evidence is clear that e-cigarettes are far less harmful than smoking and they are the most popular quitting method in England. When paired with local stop-smoking services, they have some of the highest success rates.”
PHE said anyone who wants to try to quit smoking should search “Smokefree” on the internet to find the best way to suit them this new year.