Electronic cigarettes should be recommended to tobacco smokers to help them quit, according to a review from Public Health England (PHE), Britain’s top public health body. This represents the first official recognition from the government that e-cigarettes are safer and less detrimental to health than traditional cigarettes.
While noting that vaping devices may not be completely free from risk, PHE says that e-cigs like those mentioned on this page could potentially be the “endgame for tobacco”. The findings were seconded by the government’s chief Medical officer, Dame S. Davies, who nonetheless warned that there isn’t enough evidence available on the long-term use of electronic cigarettes.
“It would be better if these products came to the market as licensed medicines so as to assure customers that they are safe to be used as quitting aids, especially when it comes to the flavourings that are included, which is where we know least pertaining to any inhalation risks.”
In the 111-page review, PHE is concerned that the length and cost of the licensing process in England may harm efforts to cut tobacco use. No e-cigs have been licensed as yet, compared to other nicotine replacement therapies such as lozenges and patches. Some pilot schemes in Leicester and the City of London have started allowing stop-smoking experts to issue free e-cigarette starter kits, but tobacco smokers in other regions cannot be given e-cigs on prescription.
Jane Ellison, the minister for public health in England, reminded smokers that they are better off quitting so as to avoid becoming a victim of the nation’s number one killer.
“While we recognize that vaping can help adults quit, we still want to shield our children from nicotine, which is why we have made e-cigarettes out of reach for those under the age of 18,” she said.
The review found that the majority of the 2.6 million people in Britain using e-cigarettes are current or former tobacco smokers; with many of them using them to help them quit or prevent them from lapsing.
The report also dispelled the notion that vaping could lead people to start using conventional cigarettes, with less than 1% of vapers transitioning to regular tobacco smoking.
The decision by PHE to endorse e-cigarettes comes after efforts by anti-smoking campaigners and medical specialists to urge the NHS to start providing better smoking cessation support and to adopt a less negative stand on e-cigarettes.
Peter Hajek from Queen Mary University, London, and one of the authors of the review noted that smokers switching to e-cigs remove themselves from almost all the risks that come with tobacco smoking.
“I would advise them not to despair on e-cigarettes in case they don’t like the first one they try. It is good to experiment with a variety of products and e-liquids because smokers differ in their needs.”