If used correctly, e-cigarettes could be a key weapon in the NHS’s stop smoking arsenal, Norman Lamb MP, chair of the Science and Technology Committee has said on publication of a new report. Medically licensed e-cigarettes should also be considered.

The Committee's report reviews the current evidence base on the harmfulness of e-cigarettes compared to conventional cigarettes and looks at the current policies on e-cigarettes, including in NHS mental health units and in prisons. The Committee concludes that e-cigarettes should not be treated in the same way as conventional cigarettes.

The Committee is calling on the Government to consider risk-based regulation to allow more freedom to advertise e-cigarettes as the relatively less harmful option, and provide financial incentives, in the form of lower levels of taxation, for smokers to swap from cigarettes to less harmful alternatives such as e-cigarettes.

Further, it is calling for a reconsideration of: their use in public places; limits on refill strengths and tank sizes; and the approval systems for stop smoking therapies such as e-cigarettes.

Norman Lamb MP, Chair of the Science and Technology Committee, said: “Smoking remains a national health crisis and the Government should be considering innovative ways of reducing the smoking rate. E-cigarettes are less harmful than conventional cigarettes, but current policy and regulations do not sufficiently reflect this and businesses, transport providers and public places should stop viewing conventional and e-cigarettes as one and the same. There is no public health rationale for doing so.
 
“Concerns that e-cigarettes could be a gateway to conventional smoking, including for young non-smokers, have not materialised. If used correctly, e-cigarettes could be a key weapon in the NHS’s stop smoking arsenal.
 
“E-cigarettes are a proven stop smoking tool and, while uncertainties undoubtedly remain about their long-term health impact, failing to explore the use of e-cigarettes could lead to the continued use of conventional cigarettes—which currently kill around 79,000 people in England every year. Medically licensed e-cigarettes would make it easier for doctors to discuss and recommend them as a stop smoking tool to aid those quitting smoking.  The approval systems for prescribing these products must be urgently reviewed."

Read the full report here.

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