The government is missing an opportunity with e-cigarettes

The Science and Technology Committee has claimed that legislation surrounding the use of e-cigarettes should be relaxed so they can be more widely accepted in society.

MPs say that e-cigarettes, estimated by some as 95 per cent less harmful than conventional cigarettes, are too often being overlooked as a stop smoking tool by the NHS, and, despite recent reports, should not be seen as a significant ‘gateway’, including for young non-smokers, to conventional smoking.

Approximately 2.9 million people in the UK are currently using e-cigarettes, with estimations that roughly 470,000 people are using them as an aid to stop smoking. Therefore, the committee is calling on the government 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.


 

Norman Lamb, chair of the 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.
     
“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.”

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