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Film’s graphic demonstration of harm done by smoking

12:00am | & Health

A NEW film showing the devastating damage done to the human body by smoking cigarettes has been released by Public Health England.

Designed to encourage smokers keen to start the new year by quitting, the film is part of PHE’s ‘Health Harms’ campaign, which demonstrates the harms to good health that come from every cigarette smoked. It also shows how this harm can be avoided by switching to an e-cigarette – known as ‘vaping’ – or using another type of quitting aid, such as nicotine patches or gum.

The film features smoking expert Dr Lion Shahab and Dr Rosemary Leonard, visually demonstrating the high levels of cancer-causing tar and toxic chemicals inhaled by an average smoker over just one month, compared to not smoking or switching to vaping. The results of the demonstration visually illustrate the stark contrast between the impacts of smoking and vaping.

Research estimates that while not entirely risk-free, vaping is at least 95% less harmful than smoking. More and more smokers are using vaping as a way to wean themselves off harmful cigarettes. In a shocking conclusion, the film graphically demonstrates just how much tar goes into an average smoker’s body over a month. It is not the addictive nicotine in cigarettes which causes the damage, but this tar and other toxins.

Around 2.5 million adults in England are now using e-cigarettes and they have helped thousands of people successfully quit smoking cigarettes – but research shows that many smokers (44%) either believe that vaping is as harmful as smoking (22%) or don’t know that vaping poses much lower risks to health (22%).

Professor John Newton, Director of Health Improvement at Public Health England, said: “It would be tragic if thousands of smokers who could quit with the help of an e-cigarette are being put off due to false fears about safety. We need to reassure smokers that switching to an e-cigarette would be much less harmful than smoking.”

Speaking about the new film, he added: “This demonstration highlights the devastating harms caused by every cigarette and helps people see that vaping is likely to pose only a fraction of the risk. We want to encourage more smokers to try and quit completely with the help of an e-cigarette, or by using other nicotine replacement such as patches or gum, as this will significantly improve their chances of success.”

Dr Lion Shahab, who is featured in the new film, is the leading smoking cessation academic from University College London. He said: “The false belief that vaping is as harmful as smoking could be preventing thousands of smokers from switching to e-cigarettes to help them quit. I hope this illustrative experiment helps people see the huge damage caused by smoking that could be avoided by switching to an e-cigarette.”

NHS GP DR Rosemary Leonard, who also features in the film, added: “I wanted to be involved in this experiment because every day I see the devastating impact that smoking has on people’s health, but I rarely get the opportunity to actually show people what is happening inside their bodies when they smoke.

“I regularly give patients advice about quitting and when I recommend e-cigarettes, I am often surprised to hear the misconceptions some people have about them. The results of this experiment clearly show that every cigarette you smoke causes tar to enter your body and spreads poison throughout your bloodstream. Vaping is much less harmful than smoking and I really hope this experiment will encourage smokers to make a quit attempt. No matter how old you are, it’s never too late to stop.”

• You can watch the short film by clicking here. To find out more about the range of free support and tools available to help people quit smoking, visit the ‘Smokefree’ website by clicking here. You can also access Public Health England’s ‘personal quit plan’ by clicking here.

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