Health professionals should encourage more smokers to make the switch to e-cigarettes, an updated review commissioned by Public Health England concludes.
Written by an independent panel of experts the review goes as far as stating the evidence is ‘compelling’ enough for e-cigarettes to be made available to NHS patients.
It also calls for e-cigarettes to be made available in hospital shops alongside nicotine replacement therapies.
The review, which updates new evidence in the literature since the agency’s last report published in 2015, also calls for health professionals to inform smokers that “vaping is at least 95% less harmful than smoking” – a figure that has been the subject of much controversy between Australian public health figures and Public Health England (see our previous coverage here.)
The 243 page report also calls for “widespread misconceptions” about the relative risks from nicotine and tobacco to be addressed. For example, it states that many thousands of smokers incorrectly believe that vaping is as harmful as smoking; with around 40% of smokers not having tried an e-cigarette.
Professor Ann McNeil, lead author of the report and a Professor of tobacco addiction at King’s College, London, said, “People smoke for the nicotine, but, contrary to what the vast majority believe, nicotine causes little if any of the harm. The toxic smoke is the culprit and is the overwhelming cause of all the tobacco related disease and death.
The review also finds no evidence to support the concern that e-cigarettes are a route into smoking for young people.
Linda Bauld, report author and professor of health policy at the University of Stirling, commented, “In the UK, research clearly shows that regular use of e-cigarettes among young people who have never smoked remains negligible, less than 1%, and youth smoking continues to decline at an encouraging rate.
“We need to keep closely monitoring these trends, but so far the data suggest that e-cigarettes are not acting as a route into regular smoking among young people,” she said.
However medical groups in Australia have maintained their opposition to any easing of access to e-cigarettes.
AMA president Dr Michael Gannon this week rejected calls from Australian Conservatives leader Cory Bernardi to decriminalise vaping with nicotine. Dr Gannon said there was little evidence to back claims that vaping would help smokers quit.
The main findings of PHE’s evidence review are: