Cancer rates in the United States have been dropping for the past 30 years. The American Cancer Society (ACS) estimates that the overall death rate has dropped 25% since 1991, and their recently released annual report is more good news for Americans. Once again, they expect cancer deaths to decline in 2018. Although not reflected in the ACS report, over the course of the last 5 years a growing number of tobacco smokers have successfully quit with the help of electronic cigarettes. In that same time period, the number of cancer deaths has declined significantly, which begs the question… how many saved lives can be attributed to smokers switching to vaping?
The ACS analyzes statistics from many different aspects, including demographics and life circumstances to better understand the risks and solutions to cancer. Some factors that are attributed to the steady decline are fewer uninsured Americans, improved diagnostics and better education and personal awareness about healthier lifestyle choices – with quitting smoking being at the top of that list.
Initiatives like the Great American Smokeout have had a huge impact. Since the first Great American Smokeout more than 40 years ago (when 35% of the nation smoked), the number of smokers has dropped to less than 20%.
Although the latest ACS report didn’t even mention electronic cigarettes, an estimated 350,000 lives were saved between 2014 and 2015 alone – peak years for the emerging vaping industry. Has vaping affected the numbers?
Evidence of Positive Impact By Vaping
It’s probably too early to know for sure, but ongoing studies continue to suggest that vaping could be a factor in declining cancer rates. One of the latest, from July 2017 out of the University of California and supported by the National Cancer Institute of the National Institutes of Health under the State and Community Tobacco Control (SCTC) Initiative, examined whether the increased use of e-cigarettes was associated with a change in overall smoking cessation. They concluded that to be the case. When e-cigarette use was high, so was the rate of smoking cessation.
In trying to determine the most effective way to quit smoking, another study out of the University of Louisville tested a variety of smoking cessation methods. They compared the standard cold-turkey method, prescription medications, nicotine patches, gum and electronic cigarettes – and found overwhelming evidence that vaping was by far the most successful tool to kick the habit. An impressive one-fourth of the participants were able to quit with the help of e-cigarettes.
So convinced by the overwhelming data, the UK health agency Public Health England has publicly suggested that all health and social care professionals recommend e-cigarettes as a method to quit smoking. The British Psychological Society suggested increasing the cost of smoking and reducing the cost of e-cigarettes to encourage smokers to switch to vaping.
A University of St. Andrews study conducted in 2017 compared the cancer potency emissions of e-cigarettes to tobacco cigarettes. They found that vaping is similar to medical inhalers and estimated vaping to be 99% safer than smoking.
To reinforce even further the connection that vapors are better protected against cancer than smokers is research conducted in Italy that was published last fall. They concluded that lower Excess Lifetime Cancer Risk values were found for e-cigs with respect to traditional cigarettes by a whopping 57,000 times.
The PR Nightmare for E-Cigarettes
With so much evidence to support the reduced risk and effectiveness of vaping to help people kick tobacco, you’d think that everyone would be making the switch. Unfortunately, the news isn’t getting to the people. One of the biggest obstacles when it comes to vaping is the powerful effect of public opinion; often swayed by negative or biased media coverage designed to grab headlines.
A survey for the UK public health charity ASH shows that people were over-estimating the dangers of vaping, with only 13% of respondents recognizing that e-cigarettes were a lot less harmful than smoking traditional cigarettes, and more than a quarter (26%) thinking they were more or equally harmful.
Although the skepticism may seem insurmountable, public health agencies are helping to push the tide toward wider acceptance of the benefits of vaping in an effort to cut smoking from the public arena. Great Britain, for example, has been leading the way in proclaiming vaping as safer than smoking by at least 95% and has been initiating policies that would make vaping more affordable than cigarettes. That’s a huge endorsement of the health benefits to the public at large and indicative of a link to warding off life-threatening diseases like cancer.
Thankfully, some of the stigma and fear is beginning to subside as more studies expose the false narrative that is often spewed by the mainstream media. The hope is that shifting public perception will help to battle any new laws, regulations and restrictions that would make it more difficult for Americans to get the help they need in their efforts to live healthier lifestyles and quit smoking.