Is vaping 40% cheaper and 95% healthier than smoking?

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Health organisations don’t like to endorse nicotine consumption or smoking in any form, so it’s quite understandable that they’ve always emphasised e-cigarettes are still bad for you. However, according to recent reports from NerdWallet and Public Health England, e-cigarettes may have their benefits compared with traditional smokes: they may end up costing you almost 40% less, and they (could be) 95% safer than tobacco.

The NerdWallet report looked at the comparative price of e-cigarettes and tobacco, and concluded that the electronic cigarette is vastly cheaper to smoke.

For example, a regular cigarette will deliver around 10 puffs over 5-10 minutes, and each pack contains 20 cigarettes. While e-cigarettes vary (a normal eliquid like UK VG E Liquids will deliver about 200 puffs) they tend to be around the same as a pack of cigarettes. While the type of e-cigarette and e-liquid strongly affects the cost of vaping, here are a few numbers.

In the US, a pack of cigarettes costs an average of £4.55 including taxes. A pack-a-day smoker therefore ends up spending about £1,668 each year on their habit.

A disposable vape (which costs the most per cartridge, but doesn’t need a battery, charger, or extra e-liquid) will cost £6-7 per e-cig. Since each disposable vape is the equivalent of 2.5 packs worth of smokes, this is around £900 per year.

A rechargeable starter kit, on the other hand, is more expensive up front but cheaper in the long run. Instead of £6-7, they can cost £16-£94 up front — but their annual expense can be as low as £393 (at £1.73 per cartridge).

Are e-cigs less harmful?

According to a new report by Public Health England, vaping may be as much as 95% safer than smoking cigarettes. The report has been controversial (it was based on a study which was conducted in part by researchers who work for the e-cigarette industry) but it’s been widely welcomed by e-cigarette sellers and users.

The Public Health England report also observed that around 50% of the public falsely assumes that e-cigarettes and vapourisers are just as unhealthy as regular cigarettes. Similarly, there’s no evidence that using vapourisers will lead to smoking tobacco. (Public Health England suggested they be used to help people quit.)

To be sure, the safest option overall is still to quit all forms of using nicotine.

Where’s the controversy? According to the prestigious medical journal The Lancet, Public Health England’s ’95 per cent safer’ claim comes from a study which was published last year in a journal called European Addiction Research. 3 out of 11 authors in that study disclosed they had roles advising or consulting for the e-cigarette business, and the EAR journal editors went further — they printed a ‘potential conflict of interest’ warning next to the paper.

Even the scientists who wrote the original paper were cautious about their research’s robustness, warning that there was a certain ‘lack of hard evidence’ to support certain aspects of their claims. However, PHE did not include this warning, nor any note about the authors’ potential conflict of interest, in their 111-page review.

Instead, PHE called for the NHS to start prescribing e-cigarettes to help people quit smoking.


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