Relative harms of nicotine products
Criteria include mortality, morbidity and economic costs, which contribute to the overall scores
While stressing that e-cigarettes are not free from risk, PHE now believes that e-cigarettes “have the potential to make a significant contribution to the endgame for tobacco”.
“I want to see these products coming to the market as licensed medicines. This would provide assurance on the safety, quality and efficacy to consumers who want to use these products as quitting aids, especially in relation to the flavourings used, which is where we know least about any inhalation risks.”
The review found that almost all of the 2.6 million adults in the UK now thought to be using e-cigarettes are current or former conventional smokers, most using them to help them quit tobacco or to prevent them going back to smoking.
Smoking kills about 100,000 people a year in the UK, most of those in England where there are thought to be eight million tobacco users. But official figures suggest smoking is now at its lowest prevalence since records started in the 1940s.
Rates are highest in many of the most deprived areas of England, and getting smokers off tobacco is increasingly seen as one of the best ways of reducing health inequalities.
Worryingly for many of those behind the policy change, increasing numbers of people – up to 22%, compared with 8% two years ago – think e-cigarettes are equally or more harmful than tobacco. This is leading some smokers to avoid switching, studies have suggested.
Vaping is ever more popular, but is it a smoking cure or a new hazard?
“The problem is people increasingly think E-cigarettes are at least as harmful as traditional cigarettes and this may be keeping millions of smokers from quitting. Local stop-smoking services should look to support e-cigarette users in their journey to quitting completely.”
Peter Hajek, of Queen Mary University, London, one of the independent authors of the review, said: “My reading of the evidence is that smokers who switch to vaping remove almost all the risks smoking poses to their health.