E-cigarettes inquiry

The House of Commons Science and Technology Committee has examined the impact of electronic cigarettes on human health (including their effectiveness as a stop-smoking tool), the suitability of regulations guiding their use, and the financial implications of a growing market on both business and the NHS.

Summary

  • E-cigarettes are not a gateway to smoking – in the UK, use of e-cigarettes is limited almost entirely to those who are already using, or have used, tobacco. Concerns about e-cigarettes helping to recruit a new generation of tobacco smokers through a gateway effect are, at least to date, unfounded, although vigilant surveillance is required to ensure that the emergence of any such effect is detected and reversed promptly
  • E-cigarettes do not result in the normalisation of smoking – there is no evidence that either nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) or e-cigarette use has resulted in re-normalisation of smoking
  • E-cigarettes and quitting smoking – e-cigarette use is likely to lead to quit attempts that would not otherwise have happened
  • E-cigarettes and long-term harm – the possibility of some harm from long-term e-cigarette use cannot be dismissed due to inhalation of ingredients other than nicotine, but is likely to be very small, and substantially smaller than that arising from tobacco smoking. Although it is not possible to estimate the long-term health risks associated with e-cigarettes precisely, the available data suggest that they are unlikely to exceed 5% of those associated with smoked tobacco products, and may well be substantially lower than this figure
  • E-cigarettes offer a useful tool to reduce the harm associated with tobacco. This must be supported by proportionate regulation which ensures product safety, enables and encourages smokers to use the product instead of tobacco, and detects and prevent effects that counter the overall goals of tobacco control policy. 
  • In the interests of public health it is important to promote the use of e-cigarettes, NRT and other non-tobacco nicotine products as widely as possible as a substitute for smoking in the UK.

Further information can be found in the RCP's 2016 report Nicotine without smoke: Tobacco harm reduction, which summarises the science, public policy implications, regulation and ethics of e-cigarettes and other non-tobacco sources of nicotine.

Contact

For more information please contact the Royal College of Physicians' (RCP's) senior public affairs adviser, Methela Haque, by email at methela.haque@rcplondon.ac.uk.

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