E-cigarettes backed by Royal College of Physicians as harm reduction

Written by Tom Freeman on 28 April 2016 in News

Report finds no evidence e-cigarettes normalise smoking but are effective as regulated harm reduction

E-cigarettes are effective when used to quit smoking and can be beneficial to public health in the UK, a new report for the Royal College of Physicians (RCP) has concluded.

The use of e-cigarettes, or ‘vaping’, has exploded in recent years, leading to concerns the health effects may not be fully understood amid moves by tobacco companies to invest in the sector.

The 200-page RCP report found no evidence to support the devices act as a gateway to smoking, adding that they have been successful in attempts by smokers to quit cigarettes.


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Although long-term health risks from ‘vaping’ are not yet known, the report suggests they are not likely to exceed five per cent of harm associated with tobacco products.

A regulatory strategy should take “a balanced approach”, it suggests, to enable smokers to use the product while ensuring they are safe.

Professor John Britton, chair of the RCP’s Tobacco Advisory Group, said the report should reassure smokers.

“This report lays to rest almost all of the concerns over these products, and concludes that, with sensible regulation, electronic cigarettes have the potential to make a major contribution towards preventing the premature death, disease and social inequalities in health that smoking currently causes in the UK,” he said.

One of the report’s authors is leading Scottish cancer prevention expert Linda Bauld of Stirling University.

"Tobacco use remains the leading cause of preventable death in Scotland and this comprehensive report shows that electronic cigarettes have considerable potential to help drive down smoking rates further,” she said.

“This is particularly important for groups and communities where smoking rates are still high. Properly funded stop smoking services are essential, as we need to do everything we can to support people to move away from tobacco. There is growing evidence that e-cigarettes also provide a new escape route.”

The British Medical Association (BMA) said future regulation of e-cigarettes should focus on making sure that the devices are safe and effective as well as preventing marketing to children and young people.

“Doctors want to see strong regulation of e-cigarettes. Regulating e-cigarettes as a licensed medicinal product best reflects their use for harm reduction and ensures their effectiveness, quality and safety,” said deputy chair of the BMA board of science Ram Moorthy.

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