Smokers should be reassured over the safety of electronic cigarettes and encouraged to use the devices as an alternative to smoking, according to a new report from the Royal College of Physicians (RCP).
Through examining the latest evidence, the report, 'Nicotine without smoke: tobacco harm reduction', concludes that vaping is not a gateway to smoking, as use of e-cigarettes is limited almost entirely to current or former smokers, while there is no evidence that the devices are normalising the habit of smoking.
In fact, the 200-page report suggests that electronic cigarettes may act as 'a gateway from smoking' as it found evidence of smokers using the devices to make quit attempts that they would not otherwise have done.
The authors concede that the possibility of some harm from long-term e-cigarette use cannot be dismissed due to inhalation of the ingredients other than nicotine; however, they argue that these potential risks are far outweighed by the benefits of reducing tobacco use.
The report ends by calling for a balanced approach to e-cigarette regulation that ensures public safety and access to harm reduction methods, while upholding the overall goals of tobacco control policy.
Professor John Britton, chair of the RCP’s Tobacco Advisory Group, said: "The growing use of electronic cigarettes as a substitute for tobacco smoking has been a topic of great controversy, with much speculation over their potential risks and benefits.
"This report lays to rest almost all of the concerns over these products, and concludes that, with sensible regulation, electronic cigarettes have the potential to make a major contribution towards preventing the premature death, disease and social inequalities in health that smoking currently causes in the UK.
"Smokers should be reassured that these products can help them quit all tobacco use forever."