LONDON, U.K. —A new report released today from the Royal College of Physicians (RCP),Nicotine without smoke: tobacco harm reduction, should provide reassurance and encouragement to smokers that vaping is a viable option for quitting. The 200-page report concludes that in the interest of public health it is important to widely promote vapor products and other non-combustion tobacco / nicotine products as substitutes for cigarettes. The extensive analysis also estimates that vapor products likely pose no more than 5% of the risks associated with cigarettes, with the authors further noting that the actual figure may be substantially lower.
The Royal College of Physicians also finds
- 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
- Smoking is the biggest avoidable cause of death and disability, and social inequality in health, in the UK.
- Most of the harm to society and to individuals caused by smoking in the near-term future will occur in people who are smoking today.
- Vigorous pursuit of conventional tobacco control policies encourages more smokers to quit smoking.
- Quitting smoking is very difficult and most adults who smoke today will continue to smoke for many years.
- People smoke because they are addicted to nicotine, but are harmed by other constituents of tobacco smoke.
- Provision of the nicotine that smokers are addicted to without the harmful components of tobacco smoke can prevent most of the harm from smoking.
- Until recently, nicotine products have been marketed as medicines to help people to quit.
- NRT is most effective in helping people to stop smoking when used together with health professional input and support, but much less so when used on its own.
- E-cigarettes are marketed as consumer products and are proving much more popular than NRT as a substitute and competitor for tobacco cigarettes.
- E-cigarettes appear to be effective when used by smokers as an aid to quitting smoking.
- E-cigarettes are not currently made to medicines standards and are probably more hazardous than NRT.
- However, the hazard to health arising from long-term vapour inhalation from the e-cigarettes available today is unlikely to exceed 5% of the harm from smoking tobacco.
- Technological developments and improved production standards could reduce the long-term hazard of e-cigarettes.
- There are concerns that e-cigarettes will increase tobacco smoking by re-normalising the act of smoking, acting as a gateway to smoking in young people, and being used for temporary, not permanent, abstinence from smoking.
- To date, there is no evidence that any of these processes is occurring to any significant degree in the UK.
- Rather, the available evidence to date indicates that e-cigarettes are being used almost exclusively as safer alternatives to smoked tobacco, by confirmed smokers who are trying to reduce harm to themselves or others from smoking, or to quit smoking completely.
- There is a need for regulation to reduce direct and indirect adverse effects of e-cigarette use, but this regulation should not be allowed significantly to inhibit the development and use of harm-reduction products by smokers.
- A regulatory strategy should, therefore, 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.
- The tobacco industry has become involved in the e-cigarette market and can be expected to try to exploit these products to market tobacco cigarettes, and to undermine wider tobacco control work.
- However, in the interests of public health it is important to promote the use of e-cigarettes, NRT and other non-tobacco nicotine products as widely as possible as a substitute for smoking in the UK.