‘Vaping as bad as fags’: the Sun’s splash runs counter to everything we know

‘Vaping as bad as fags’ howls the front page of the Sun today. It is a strange headline to run since nobody quoted in the story says anything of the sort. On the contrary, the article is full of experts explaining that vaping is very much safer than smoking. For example, Deborah Arnott of Action on Smoking and Health says that e-cigarettes are ‘much safer than tobacco’ and Rosanna O’Connor from Public Health England is quoted as saying ‘Vaping carries a fraction of the risk of smoking.’

These comments are in line with the review of the scientific evidence published by Public Health England which concluded that e-cigarettes are ‘around 95 per cent less harmful than tobacco’. This was confirmed earlier this year in a review by the Royal College of Physicians which concluded that ‘the possibility of some harm from long-term e-cigarette use cannot be dismissed due to inhalation of the ingredients other than nicotine, but is likely to be very small, and substantially smaller than that arising from tobacco smoking’.

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What new evidence has the Sun found to contradict this? Its story is based on comments made at a cardiology conference by a Greek doctor, Charalambos Vlachopoulos, who published a study in June looking at the effect of vaping on blood pressure and blood vessels. The study found that e-cigarettes cause arterial stiffness which, as Dr Michael Siegel notes on his blog, is hardly surprising since nicotine causes arterial stiffness. So does drinking coffee, taking an exam and watching football.

That does not mean that caffeine and the World Cup are as bad as smoking. Nor does Dr Vlachopoulos claim that vaping is as bad as smoking. The Sun quotes him saying: ‘E-cigarettes are less harmful than traditional cigarettes but they are not harmless.’ No serious researcher has ever claimed that they are harmless. That is why we talk about harm reduction, not harm elimination. Few things in life are 100 per cent safe and even nicotine patches only reduce the harm; they, too, raise blood pressure.

The good doctor goes on to say that e-cigarettes are ‘far more dangerous than people realise’ and that he wouldn’t personally recommend them as a way to quit smoking. He is welcome to his opinion, but the claim that e-cigarettes are ‘more dangerous than people realise’ is not supported by his study nor by any other research. His study only confirms what we already know about nicotine. It tells us nothing about the long-term health effects and it certainly doesn’t show that the consequences of vaping are comparable to those of smoking.

Thanks to alarmist headlines like that on the front of today’s soaraway Sun, the likelihood is that e-cigarettes are actually safer than people realise. Despite the efforts of organisations like Public Health England and the Royal College of Physicians to inform the public, unfounded scare stories in the popular press have led to people becoming more ignorant about the relative risks of vaping and smoking over time. As a result, smokers have increasingly taken a ‘better the devil you know’ approach and stuck with tobacco.

How many smokers will see the Sun‘s irresponsible front page today and conclude that there is no point in switching? Some vapers may even decide to go back to cigarettes. A decade after e-cigarettes hit the shelves, public understanding about the risks of vaping is going backwards.


  • chrissnowdon

    I should have added that the study in question is actually a letter reporting the results of an experiment rather than a fully fledged, peer-reviewed study.

    • Tom Gleeson

      Not really fair to single out the Sun here, though their headline is particularly exaggerated, other papers have run with the same story, all without any critical analysis or even common sense pause for thought.
      Pulled for some news feed of fed to them by someone with an agenda? Hard to say but whichever, it’s dishonest journalism.

      • Stevie Mac

        With a front page headline?

  • Jason Hitchcock

    Anything to sell newspapers, and lets be honest the newspaper editors need to do something to make people buy pieces of paper with ink on.

  • Gary Ryan

    A typical sun headline, lies, lies, lies! Just take no notice, I always do. 😉

  • YahooHenry

    The Sun’s worse than smoking: official.

    • OsamabinBush

      Reading Sun gives you Chlamydia ..Official Study

  • trobrianders

    Anyone investigating Dr Vlachopoulos for links to the tobacco industry?

  • Ian Jones

    I have been vaping since October 2015 and I have not touched tobacco since November. I was smoking about 50g a week and since then I feel so much fitter and no longer have staining on my fingers.The difference I find is that I enjoy vaping different flavours and I don’t get the urge for the need to Vape, unlike a cigarette that made me irritable when I was unable to pop outside for a smoke. Now when I go outside for a nicotine fix, I can come back into the showroom where I work and speak to my non smoking customers without them thinking I stink of cigarettes.

  • davidofkent

    Surely the World Cup is the biggest threat to national sanity since … the last World Cup. I sense that it gets people really upset and that probably hardens the arteries. Still, there are so many ways in which foolish people lose their money and their sanity (BT Sport, Sky Sport, savings accounts!), so why worry about it. It looks like we will be in a for a long period of re-runs of classic BBC sitcoms so there is something to look forward to. The remakes are diabolical so why bother – just re-run the originals. Anyway, back to vaping. People who vape look very stupid and anyone who inhales nicotine with steam must be stupid, so why not just give the whole thing up. I believe it was Edward VIII who helped make cigarette smoking so popular for a generation. Surely that should tell us how stupid it is.

  • Fredrik Eich

    Well given that chronic smokers have lower blood pressure than non-smokers

    http://ntr.oxfordjournals.org/content/4/3/349.extract

    and given that when smokers give up smoking they get high blood pressure

    http://hyper.ahajournals.org/content/37/2/194.full

    it will be interesting to see if this healthy effect on cardiac health seen in chronic smoking
    is also true of chronic vaping. Only time will tell!

  • OsamabinBush

    Next weeks headline in Sun

  • ChrisPrice4

    The question Sun readers really want to know, though, is: does vaping give you big tits?

  • Terry

    I smoked strong, unfiltered cigarettes for 69 years before trading for e-cigs within 7 days, that was 4 years ago when my breathing rate was 50% of normal. I have annual lung function tests Results? –reading now 88%– 3 months ago.
    Can now swim a length under water and feel much fitter (age 84) Terry W

  • Mme. Marion Marechal Merseault

    F4GS are bad for your health. Well duh, AIDS is still a thing, you know.

  • OsamabinBush

    Murdoch must have lots of shares in BAT

  • Claudia Gaspar

    Vaping helped a little bit my partner to get rid of cigarettes abstinence (almost 35 daily until one month ago) but a strong mindset and realizing the horrific tabagism damages kick-started the process.