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Related to: Smoking

Key Facts:

  • 95% less harmful chemicals in e-cigarettes compared to normal cigarettes
  • Evidence suggests effectiveness as a method of stopping smoking
  • No evidence of vaping as a 'gateway' into cigarette smoking
  • Long-term evidence still being compiled

National research review including Latest PHE report 1

Public Health England commissioned an independent review of the latest evidence on the effects of E-cigarettes to ensure that practitioners, policy makers and the public have the best evidence available. E-cigarettes use battery power to heat an element to disperse a solution of propylene glycol or glycerine, water, flavouring and usually nicotine, resulting in an aerosol that can be inhaled by the user (commonly termed vapour). Experts recently identified them as having around 4% of the relative harm of cigarettes overall (including social harm) and 5% of the harm to users. The summary of findings are;

  • Best estimates show that e-cigarettes contain 95% less harmful chemicals (carcinogens) than normal cigarettes

  • EC liquid (vaped) does contain impurities and potential toxicants, but in very small concentrations, and in all cases far less than cigarette smoke
  • When supported by a smoking cessation service, can help smokers to quit tobacco altogether2
  • There is no evidence that e-cigarettes are undermining the long-term decline in cigarette smoking among adults and youth, and may in fact be contributing to it

  • E-cigarettes are attracting very few people who never smoked into regular e-cigarettes use

  • When used as intended, e-cigarettes pose no risk of nicotine poisoning to users, but liquids should be in ‘childproof’ packaging as the liquid alone is poisonous

  • No evidence of existence or danger of 'passive vaping'
  • There has been an overall shift in public perception towards e-cigarettes being as harmful as cigarettes over the last year despite evidence to the contrary

  • New regulations currently planned should maximise the public health opportunities of e-cigarettes by ensuring products are safe and effective

For the full set of findings and policy commentary please read the full report here. It should be noted that the long-term effects of e-cigarette use are still unclear and under continued clinical review. The British Medical Journal also recently published a rebutal of PHE's findings, questioning the veracity of the trials cited and thier conclusions which can be read here.

A statement 3 on behalf of the UK Health Forum described the concensus that e-cigarettes are less harmful than smoking and the most popular quitting tool nationally. Combined with local stop smoking services still being the most effective way to quit completely, guidance is to encourage those who want to use e-cigarettes to quit smoking to seek the help of thier local stop smoking service.