Electronic cigarettes (e-cigs) are “beneficial” to public health, and vapers should be encouraged to use them, a new report from the Royal College of Physicians (RCP) claims.

The report Nicotine without smoke: tobacco harm reduction concludes that e-cigs are “much safer than smoking”.

Since e-cigs became available in the UK in 2007, their use has been surrounded by medical and public controversy.  

The 200-page report examines the science, public policy, regulation and ethics surrounding e-cigs and addresses these controversies with conclusions based on the latest available evidence:

  • E-cigs are not a gateway to smoking – in the UK, use of e-cigarettes is limited almost entirely to those who are already using, or have used, tobacco.
  • E-cigs do not result in normalisation of smoking – there is no evidence that either nicotine replacement therapy or e-cig use has resulted in renormalisation of smoking.
  • E-cigs and quitting smoking - among smokers, e-cig use is likely to lead to quit attempts that would not otherwise have happened, and in a proportion of these to successful cessation.
  • E-cigs and long-term harm - the possibility of some harm from long-term e-cig use cannot be dismissed due to inhalation of the ingredients other than nicotine, but is likely to be very small, and substantially smaller than that arising from tobacco smoking.

The report acknowledges the need for proportionate and balanced regulation, that should not inhibit the development and use of e-cigs and other harm-reduction products by smokers.

Professor John Britton, chair of the RCP’s Tobacco Advisory Group, said: “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.”