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Fresh welcomes report into why electronic cigarettes can improve public health

28 April 2016



Fresh has welcomed a new report by the Tobacco Advisory Group of the Royal College of Physicians which concludes that electronic cigarettes are a safer alternative to smoking and are beneficial to public health.


The report also reflects research by Action on Smoking and Health which shows that use of electronic cigarettes is almost exclusively confined to former or existing smokers who use the device to cut down and quit smoking, and there is no evidence that vaping has re-normalised smoking. Of great concern, however, is that only around half the population understand that electronic cigarettes are less harmful than smoking, with more than one in five thinking they are equally or more harmful and a similar proportion saying they don't know.


In the North East, there are also concerns that too many smokers think ecigs are just as harmful as tobacco. A recent survey by Fresh found over half (54%) of smokers disagreed electronic cigarettes are less harmful to health.


Ailsa Rutter, Director of Fresh, said: "There are many ways to help make quitting easier, but for smokers who find it hard to stop, the evidence is building that electronic cigarettes are a much safer option. We welcome this report.


"Tobacco is a product that kills 1 in 2 lifelong smokers and this level of risk is not comparable to electronic cigarettes. But it is a concern too many smokers see electronic cigarettes as just as harmful. It is not the nicotine which kills so many people, but all the other poisons in tobacco, such as carbon monoxide.


"Stop smoking services in the North East will also provide quitting support to people using their own electronic cigarettes to quit."


Deborah Arnott, Chief Executive of health charity ASH said: "The RCP report has looked at the evidence and it is clear that it is the smoke in tobacco not the nicotine that makes cigarettes so deadly. Electronic cigarette vapour does not contain smoke, which is why vaping is much less harmful than tobacco cigarettes. Smokers should be reassured that switching to vaping is a positive and sensible life choice, which can help them quit smoking."


The report released today (Thursday 28th April 2016) from the Royal College of Physicians - 'Nicotine without smoke: tobacco harm reduction' - concludes that e-cigarettes are likely to be beneficial to UK public health. Smokers can therefore be reassured and encouraged to use them, and the public can be reassured that e-cigarettes are much safer than smoking.


Tobacco smoking is addictive and lethal. Half of all lifelong smokers die early, losing an average of about 3 months of life expectancy for every year smoked after the age of 35, some 10 years of life in total. Although smoking prevalence in the UK has reduced to 18%, 8.7 million people still smoke. Harm reduction provides an additional strategy to protect this group of smokers from disability and early death.


Since e-cigarettes became available in the UK in 2007, their use has been surrounded by medical and public controversy. This new 200-page report examines the science, public policy, regulation and ethics surrounding e-cigarettes and other non-tobacco sources of nicotine, and addresses these controversies and misunderstandings with conclusions based on the latest available evidence:


• 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

• E-cigarettes do not result in normalisation of smoking – there is no evidence that either nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) or e-cigarette use has resulted in renormalisation of smoking. None of these products has to date attracted significant use among adult never-smokers, or demonstrated evidence of significant gateway progression into smoking among young people

• E-cigarettes and quitting smoking - among smokers, e-cigarette use is likely to lead to quit attempts that would not otherwise have happened, and in a proportion of these to successful cessation. In this way, e-cigarettes can act as a gateway from smoking

• E-cigarettes and long-term harm - the possibility of some harm from long-term e-cigarette use cannot be dismissed due to inhalation of the ingredients other than nicotine, but is likely to be very small, and substantially smaller than that arising from tobacco smoking. With appropriate product standards to minimise exposure to the other ingredients, it should be possible to reduce risks of physical health still further. 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.


The report acknowledges the need for proportionate regulation, but suggests that regulation should not be allowed significantly to inhibit the development and use of harm-reduction products by smokers. It states a regulatory strategy should take a balanced approach in seeking to ensure product safety, enable and encourage smokers to use the product instead of tobacco, and detect and prevent effects that counter the overall goals of tobacco control policy.


Click through to the Royal College of Physicians to download the report.