Five years ago you’d probably never heard of electronic cigarettes, or e-cigarettes. Now it seems you can’t open a newspaper – or go into a newsagent, supermarket or pharmacist – without seeing them advertised or on sale.
For smokers concerned about the toxic cocktail of cancer-causing substances in tobacco smoke, e-cigarettes – sometimes touted as a safer alternative to smoking – might initially sound like a Holy Grail. We’re determined to reduce the number of smoking-related cancers. If e-cigarettes can help reduce this toll, it’s crucial to public health that this avenue is properly explored to fully understand the benefits and risks of these devices.
There are widely differing responses to the replication of the act of smoking offered by e-cigarettes use, known as vaping. Some people see a unique opportunity to promote a mass switch to vaping that would avoid the massive health toll of smoking tobacco on the 1 in 5 adults smoking in the UK today. Others see e-cigarette as posing a great risk that would keep people too close to their cigarette habit, making a lapse back to smoking more likely.
Currently e-cigarettes are not regulated in the way that approved nicotine replacement therapies (NRT) such as patches and gum are. This means they haven’t undergone all the rigorous tests needed to ensure their safety and effectiveness.
We want to see ‘light touch’ regulation brought in, to ensure the products contents and delivery is monitored and consistent, they are not sold to under 18’s and that their marketing does not promote smoking itself.
The increasing popularity of e-cigarettes makes it crucial to answer questions about their impact – not just on the health of smokers who use them, but on non-smokers, ex-smokers, children and society as a whole.
That’s why we commissioned researchers at the University of Stirling to identify the unanswered questions and concerns around e-cigarettes, and look at the broader issue of tobacco ‘harm reduction’ – measures to reduce illness and death caused by tobacco use.