Cross Party Group of MPs Launch Inquiry into E-Cigarettes

Wednesday 25th October 2017

A cross party group of Members of Parliament have announced they are to carry out an inquiry into electronic cigarettes based on concerns of the “significant gaps” of what is known about how they work, their effects and how they are regulated.

The committee, chaired by Liberal Democrat MP Norman Lamb, is looking to their impact of the growing use of e-cigarettes on the health of their users, as well as their effectiveness as a tool to stop smoking

Norman Lamb MP noted there is mixed messages being told to people regarding their safety, whether they are beneficial to prevent people from adopting conventional smoking, and also what is known about their health effects in the medium and long term.

Mr Lamb MP commented that there is a conflict between those that see “vaping” as a valuable tool to reduce the number of cigarette smokers, and others as a way to normalise smoking again to a younger generation.

The announcement comes in the wake of the government’s Stoptober campaign, which featured e-cigarettes for the first time in its advertising campaigns after it was revealed last year that e-cigarettes and vaporisers were the most popular tools to help quit during Stoptober.

The official advice on vaping is inconsistent, with both the NHS and National Institute for Health and Care Excellence not including vaping as part of their recommended ways to help people quit.

NICE do however note that patients should be advised that some smokers have found e-cigarettes useful when they have wanted to give up, but concedes that there are is little evidence at this time of the long term harms or benefits of using vaporisers.

The key points that the cross-party science and technology committee want to understand include where the gaps are in the evidence base for and against e-cigarettes. Currently there have been short term studies regarding use, but the question of whether they are safe to use long term have not been fully explored. With such wildly varying results that show e-cigarettes as being anything between perfectly safe to potentially causing serious lung issues.

As well as this they are looking into the implications of the growing industry for e-cigarette use on both the NHS costs as well as the cost to the public. For health professionals, the primary route to stopping smokers is tackling nicotine addiction, usually through a therapy like nicotine replacement therapy, usually in the form of patches, chewing gum, lozenges or some form of spray. Some organisations, most notably Public Health England, recommend e-cigarettes as an alternative to nicotine replacement therapy, for smokers who are unable to quit and unwilling to switch to patches or another form of NCT.

Given that currently what evidence there is remains inconclusive it may take an inquiry to get a fuller picture of the safety of e-cigarettes. This will allow a lot of contradictory information to be filtered through, particularly regarding long term safety and the effects of e-cigarettes on non-smokers and children.