According to a UK health agency, electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) are about 95% less harmful than smoking, according to its best estimate.
“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 flavorings used, which is where we know least about any inhalation risks," says the government's chief medical officer, Sally Davies.
The report, from Public Health England, is the first of its kind in the UK.
"Many people think the risks of e-cigarettes are the same as smoking tobacco and this report clarifies the truth of this. In a nutshell, best estimates show e-cigarettes are 95% less harmful to your health than normal cigarettes, and when supported by a smoking cessation service, help most smokers to quit tobacco altogether," says the report.
The report suggests that smoking cessation services should recommend e-cigarettes as a tool to quit smoking, and that there is no evidence that e-cigarettes undermine the current decline in real cigarette smoking.
"Smokers who have tried other methods of quitting without success could be encouraged to try e-cigarettes (EC) to stop smoking and stop smoking services should support smokers using EC to quit by offering them behavioral support. Encouraging smokers who cannot or do not want to stop smoking to switch to EC could help reduce smoking related disease, death and health inequalities. There is no evidence that EC are undermining the long-term decline in cigarette smoking among adults and youth, and may in fact be contributing to it. Despite some experimentation with EC among never smokers, EC are attracting very few people who have never smoked into regular EC use," it says.
According to The Guardian, those responsible for the report still feel that “there continues to be a lack of evidence on the long-term use of e-cigarettes” and "they should only be used as a means to help smokers quit."
Image via Vaping360, Flickr Creative Commons