Update: Green light for e-cigs?

Public Health England (PHE) has published a new independent evidence review of e-cigarettes, an update to its 2015 report, advising anyone struggling to quit smoking to try switching to an e-cigarette and get professional help, a combination which it claims offers the greatest quit success.

“Our new review reinforces the finding that vaping is a fraction of the risk of smoking, at least 95 per cent less harmful, and of negligible risk to bystanders,” said Professor John Newton, director for health improvement at PHE.

The report’s other findings include: 

  • Vaping poses only a small fraction of the risks of smoking and switching completely from smoking to vaping conveys substantial health benefits
  • E-cigarette use is associated with improved quit success rates over the last year and an accelerated drop in smoking rates across the country
  • There is much public misunderstanding about nicotine (less than 10 per cent of adults understand that most of the harms to health from smoking are not caused by nicotine)
  • The evidence does not support the concern that e-cigarettes are a route into smoking among young people (youth smoking rates in the UK continue to decline, regular use is rare and is almost entirely confined to those who have smoked).

Commenting on the new review, a spokesperson for the National Pharmacy Association said: “The NPA welcomes the PHE evidence review of e-cigarettes and its statement that anyone who has struggled to quit smoking should try switching to an e-cigarette and get professional help.

“It is now clear that, on the basis of current evidence, e-cigarettes have a legitimate place in smoking cessation, underpinned by professional advice.  It is useful to have a range of options in the stop smoking ‘toolkit’, because every person responds differently to treatment and the stop smoking journey is very personal. 

“Unlike corner shops and specialist vape stores, pharmacies are regulated by healthcare agencies and staff are qualified to give advice on all aspects of smoking related health, as well as identify additional health care needs...The PHE evidence review will help pharmacists provide up to date advice to people wishing to use e-cigarettes as part of their quit smoking journey. It will also help pharmacies decide whether or not to stock e-cigarettes for sale. Many more pharmacies will now feel confident to supply these products.”

A statment from Numark added: “The findings from this report are a positive step forwards to promoting the use of licensed e-cigarettes as a smoking cessation aid and anything that can be done to increase the opportunities to facilitate interaction with pharmacy and their communities should be applauded.”

While PSNC has highlighted that the review may be of use in helping support pharmacy teams in conversations with patients around the use of e-cigarettes.

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