Tobacco control and smoking

Electronic cigarettes

The use of electronic cigarettes by the public as a nicotine containing product to reduce or quit smoking has significantly increased over the last few years.  Electronic cigarettes currently come under general consumer protection law, but will be regulated by the European Union Tobacco Products Directive from May 2016 imposing restrictions on the amount of nicotine they can contain and enforce marketing restrictions so that they are not promoted to children and non-smokers.

Electronic cigarettes are novel devices that deliver nicotine by heating and vaporising a solution that typically contains nicotine, propylene glycol and/or glycerol and flavourings.  When used as intended, electronic cigarettes pose no risk of nicotine poisoning to users and the conclusion of Professor John Britton’s 2014 review for Public Health England was that  while vaping may not be 100% safe, most of the chemicals causing smoking-related disease are absent and the chemicals present pose limited danger (1). The current best estimate is that electronic cigarette use is around 95% less harmful to health than smoking.

Emerging evidence suggests some of the highest successful quit rates are now seen among smokers who use an electronic cigarette and also receive additional support from their local Stop Smoking Service.  Professor Kevin Fenton, Director of Health and Wellbeing at Public Health England said:

“Smoking remains England’s number one killer and the best thing a smoker can do is to quit completely, now and forever.  E-cigarettes are not completely risk free but when compared to smoking, evidence shows they carry just a fraction of the harm. The problem is people increasingly think they are at least as harmful and this may be keeping millions of smokers from quitting.  Local Stop Smoking Services should look to support e-cigarette users in their journey to quitting completely.”

Provided they adhere to the Russell Standard, Stop Smoking Services can include in national data returns clients who are smoking tobacco, receiving behavioural support and who are using E-Cigarettes to help them stop.  Clients who have not smoked in the 48 hours prior to attending their first session, whether they are exclusively E-Cigarette users or not, are considered non-smokers and cannot be included (2).


Last updated Friday, 22nd April 2016