E-cigarettes overlooked as useful tools for quitting smoking: Report

AUDREY VIJAINDREN

KUALA LUMPUR: E-cigarettes, which have been estimated to be 95 per cent less harmful than conventional cigarettes, are being overlooked as tools for quitting smoking.

The Science and Technology Committee in the United Kingdom recently published a report on e-cigarettes, which reviewed current evidence on the harmfulness of e-cigarettes compared to conventional cigarettes; as well as policies on e-cigarettes.

The Committee concluded that e-cigarettes should not be treated in the same way as conventional cigarettes; and regulations relating to their licensing, prescription and advertising should be relaxed. The level of taxation on them; and use of e-cigarettes in public places must be reconsidered as well.

Norman Lamb, Chair of the Science and Technology Committee, said that smoking remains a national health crisis.

“E-cigarettes are less harmful than conventional cigarettes, but current policy and regulations do not sufficiently reflect this and businesses, transport providers and public places should stop viewing conventional and e-cigarettes as one and the same. There is no public health rationale for doing so.

“E-cigarettes are a proven stop-smoking tool and, while uncertainties undoubtedly remain about their long-term health impact, failing to explore the use of e-cigarettes could lead to the continued use of conventional cigarettes,” he said.

Lamb added that medically licensed e-cigarettes would make it easier for doctors to discuss and recommend them as a stop-smoking tool to aid those quitting smoking, and the approval systems for prescribing these products must be urgently reviewed.

The Committee also heard evidence that individuals with mental health problems – who smoke significantly more than the rest of the population – could benefit considerably from using e-cigarettes.

“The percentage of smokers among those with mental health conditions remains stubbornly high, while it is declining in the general population. People with mental health conditions are almost 2.5 times more likely to smoke compared to the general population.

“The National Health Service (NHS) England’s default policy should be that e-cigarettes should be permitted in mental health units,” he suggested.

Among the Committee’s recommendations is that there should be a wider debate on how e-cigarettes are dealt with in public places; that authorities should continue to annually review evidence on the health effects of e-cigarettes; and that there should be a long-term research programme with an online hub making evidence available to the public and health professionals. © New Straits Times Press (M) Bhd