Government must stop overlooking '95% less harmful' e-cigarettes, say MPs

Faith Castro
August 19, 2018

Nearly three million people in the United Kingdom use e-cigarettes, roughly 470,000 of whom are using them to help them quit, with tens of thousands doing so successfully each year.

MPs are calling on the government to allow e-cigarettes to be made available on prescription due to their potential to help people stop smoking traditional cigarettes.

The committee said that while "uncertainties" remained about the long-term health impact of the devices, they presented "an opportunity to significantly accelerate already declining smoking rates".

While there is evidence of children experimenting with e-cigarettes, "regular use in under 18s is really quite low", Hazel pointed out.

A BBC article on Thursday said the committee came up with a number of recommendations that diverge from findings of the NHS.

E-cigarettes are not covered by the smoking legislation which, since July 2007 in England, has banned the use of cigarettes in all enclosed public and work places.

If parental influence goes a long way in impacting a child's habits, again health experts feel that if less adults are smoking regular cigarettes, less children will want to smoke them too.

A landmark review by Public Health England (PHE) published in 2015 said vaping is 95% less harmful than smoking tobacco.

"E-cigarettes have already helped many smokers to quit, but they could help many more. There is no public health rationale for doing so", said committee chairman Norman Lamb.

Of those, nearly half a million are using them as an aid to stop smoking with tens of thousands successfully quitting smoking each year as a result. "If used correctly, e-cigarettes could be a key weapon in the NHS stop-smoking arsenal".

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But the British lawmakers concluded that the balance clearly favoured vaping over tobacco smoking and it urged greater regulatory leniency to allow advertising of the relative benefits of e-cigarettes. However, more research is needed as a result of early studies that indicated e-cigarettes have a negative effect on lung cells in the lab, the article says.

This is being overlooked by the NHS, they said, which spends approximately £2.6bn a year on people who smoke conventional cigarettes.

And they said bans on vaping in public places - such as in hospitals, restaurants or on buses - should be reconsidered.

"Apart from the nicotine, the contents of the e-cigarettes are all natural".

"E-cigarettes are more likely to be a gateway out of smoking for adults than a gateway into smoking for children", Hazel said.

"Concerns that e-cigarettes could be a gateway to conventional smoking, including for young non-smokers, have not materialised".

Duncan Selbie, chief executive of PHE, said: "E-cigarettes are not without harm but are way safer than the harms of tobacco". The BBC article quotes several sources agreeing that e-cigarettes are indeed a safer alternative to normal smoking and deserve to have fewer restrictions.

George Butterworth, from Cancer Research UK, said: "The evidence so far shows that e-cigarettes are far less harmful than tobacco".

"There is no evidence that they are acting as a gateway into smoking for young people".

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