LONDON — Electronic cigarettes are around 95 per cent less harmful than tobacco and should be promoted as a tool to help smokers quit, a study by an agency of Britain’s Department of Health said on today (Aug 19).
E-cigarettes, tobacco-free devices people use to inhale nicotine-laced vapour, have surged in popularity on both sides of the Atlantic but health organisations have so far been wary of advocating them as a safer alternative to tobacco and governments from California to India have tried to introduce bills to regulate their use more strictly.
“E-cigarettes are not completely risk free but when compared to smoking, evidence shows they carry just a fraction of the harm,” said Professor Kevin Fenton from Public Health England, which carried out the study.
Most of the chemicals that cause smoking-related diseases are absent in e-cigarettes and the current best estimate is that e-cigarette use is around 95 per cent less harmful to health than smoking, the study said.
Passive inhalation from an e-cigarette was also much less harmful.
The publicly-funded study goes against a 2014 report by the World Health Organization that called for stiff regulation of e-cigarettes and bans on their indoor use and sale to minors.
It also contradicts the finding of another study by researchers from the University of Southern California which said this week that US teens who tried electronic cigarettes might be more than twice as likely to move on to smoking conventional cigarettes as those who have never tried the devices.
The Public Health England study said e-cigarettes, which are already the most popular quitting aids in Britain and the United States, could be a cheap way to reduce smoking in deprived areas where there remains a high proportion of smokers.
It criticised media campaigns that have called e-cigarettes equally or even more harmful than smoking that could serve as a “gateway” to tobacco cigarettes among teenagers.
“There is no evidence that e-cigarettes are undermining England’s falling smoking rates,” said Professor Ann McNeil who helped author the study.
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