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The Future of Smoking as Predicted by BAT

14th May 2017

What if you could look into the future and see how vaping looks in say fifty years or so? Would this kind of information sway people towards vaping as opposed to towards harmful tobacco cigarette smoking? We’ll soon see as British Amercian Tobacco (or BAT for short) have reported that they’ve developed a way of doing just that.

The model BAT have worked to produce is aimed at predicting the effect that vaping will have in the future (in terms of potential health benefits). The angle the study has taken in one where e cigarettes are seen as a viable alternative to traditional tobacco cigarettes.

As part of this research BAT decided to look at the situation in two ways:

1) What the period between 2000 and 2050 would look like if e cigarettes were not available to anyone.
2) What the period between 2000 and 2050 would look like (based on current market and usage trends) if vaping did continue to be available

BAT’s predictive model has thrown up some interesting results.

What Did the Study Predict?

Unsurprisingly (for some at least) the main conclusion coming out of this predictive research was that by the end of the study period (i.e. 2050), that as many as 32% of those smoking tobacco cigarettes will have completely moved over to vaping entirely (as in never smoking tobacco again). These findings are indicative of trends in the UK.

BAT’s own Dr James Murphy commented that the results of the predictions showed that there was an “overall benefit of e-cigarettes on a population”, going on to state that these benefits focused on the reduction of smoking (tobacco) and smoking-related death.

Other Studies

This is not the only research which has showed vaping to be a positive influence, far from it. In 2016 for example, the Cochrane Review released a study which praised vaping for helping to lift the load as such in terms of helping smokers quit, thereby reducing the pressure on an overwhelmed NHS system which struggles to deal with the high numbers of smoking related illnesses, and ultimately deaths. Both studies showed that vaping /the use of e cigarettes could and does help individuals quit smoking.

Why is the BAT Study Important?

Right now vaping, to a degree and certainly compared to the tobacco industry, is fairly new. Despite a great number of studies which show the difference between cigarettes and e cigarettes (they are nothing alike), the public are still confused about whether or not e cigarettes are safe.

Here is what we know:

• Tobacco smoking is most definitely harmful. WHO (the World Health Organisation) have categorised a great number of the ingredients (chemicals) within cigarettes as being responsible for causing cancer.
• Studies show that passive smoking (breathing in the cigarette smoke of others around you) is harmful to health. This research was the catalyst that resulted in the Go Smoke Free legislation that has made smoking in public illegal. No such research states the same about vaping. They contain completely different ingredients.
• Health professionals all agree that cigarettes are incredibly harmful to health and advise smokers to give up immediately. While vaping has not officially been embraced by the NHS there are a number of health professionals who actively advocate for the use of vaping as a cessation device. Indeed, Public Health England who are responsible for the smoking bans have been known to publicly advise people to consider vaping if the alternative is smoking, and particularly for their use in helping people quite tobacco smoking.

What we don’t know, or at least haven’t known up until now is what vaping will look like in the future, or rather what the effect of vaping will be on the health of those taking part in it. Common sense and recent research tells us that swapping an extremely harmful habit that has been proven to be incredibly damaging to health for one which is significantly cleaner, healthier and even advocated for by healthcare professionals will mean an improvement in health overall.

So, does the predictive study back that up? Dr Murray (BAT) describes the model as a way to assess population health effects when physical data is not available, i.e. a way to see if vaping is a friend or foe in the future when we can’t pluck people out of 2050 to run tests.

The study looks at 50 years of smoking and vaping. The test started by looking at the year 2000 when smoking rates were higher, namely 27% amongst adults. By 2010 this had dropped to 20.3% (in the UK). The report also showed that tobacco cigarette smoking would likely continue to drop even if e cigarettes were suddenly unavailable. This drop is predicted to reach as low as 12.4% (of the UK adult population). Interestingly however, the study also looks at how many people would be smoking still if e cigarettes were still available in the future and this result, at just 9.7% shows that indeed, e cigarettes will have a positive effect on the decline in the numbers of cigarettes smoking amongst adults in the UK by the year 2050.

This is a basic overview in what was a comprehensive study and included a diverse number of participants, as well as looking at the numbers of people who re-started smoking after quitting and assorted other factors. Overall the prevailing result was that vaping is and will continue to be responsible (in part) for the reduction in the number of people smoking tobacco cigarettes.

How Are E Cigarettes Helping Turn the Tide?

A large part of the success that vaping has offered in terms of being an alternative to tobacco smoking has been attributed to education. People are no longer unaware of the harmful effects of smoking tobacco cigarettes, thanks to extensive public health campaigns and the Go Smoke Free legislation that now makes it illegal to smoke in a public place, including on public transport, in cars used for work and in the workplace. The rising popularity of vaping in terms of it being recognised as and advocated for by professionals as being a way to help smoking and to continue the habit if wished yet without the harmful chemicals of smoking has also contributed. Of course, there are numerous other pro points for vaping as opposed to smoking.

Anything that helps to reduce the number of people smoking tobacco cigarettes (without replacing it with a harmful habit) is a good idea and BAT’s study seems to suggest that based on current trends that if people continue to switch to vaping and are educated about vaping that there will be significantly fewer people smoking in the future.

Of course, between now and then we might well find that vaping will be officially adopted by the NHS and other health authorities, helping to dispel a number of myths about vaping and encouraging more people that switching over from tobacco to vaping is in indeed a great idea. Should this happen it’s safe to say that the predicted rates of smoking in 2050 could be even lower than currently predicted. We can but hope!

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