K E-cigarettes ‘safer than tobacco’ study faces Lancet criticism

A highly publicised study by Public Health England (PHE) that claimed that e-cigarettes are 95 percent less harmful than tobacco has been attacked by medical journal The Lancet for relying on weak evidence.

The PHE report, written by researchers at King’s College London and Queen Mary University of London, argued that vaping is substantially less harmful than smoking tobacco, and that the use of e-cigarettes could help to reduce smoking-related disease and deaths in the UK, as well as lowering public health costs.

The report’s ’95 percent safer’ claim was reported widely by the media — but an editorial in The Lancet has now called that statistic into question, saying it was based on weak statistics from researchers who had conflicting interests.

PHE took its statistics from a paper in the journal European Addiction Research, led by addiction researcher David Nutt. The research explored the harmfulness of tobacco and other nicotine products, “scoring” them in terms of their effects on users and non-users alike.

But while cigarettes were given a score of 99.6 score out of 100, and e-cigarettes just a lowly 4, Nutt and his co-authors also urged that there was a “lack of hard evidence for the harms of most of the products on most of the criteria” — meaning the evidence is far from watertight


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