Electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) are a nicotine inhaling product first developed in 2003 by Hon Lik, a pharmacist in China. The growing prevalence in the use of e-cigarettes has raised questions as whether they are to be considered a lifestyle choice and restricted in a similar way to other tobacco products, or a medicinal product for smoking cessation that requires rigorous regulation.
We have expressed concern over possible safety issues of using e-cigarettes, as well as a lack of evidence of their efficacy when used for smoking cessation. Despite this, the organisation recognises they have a potential role to play in helping smokers reduce and stop smoking in the short term, or as a pathway to other nicotine replacement therapies (NRTs).
We recommend that policy-makers must do everything they can to avoid a new generation of people becoming addicted to nicotine. This is particularly important in light of the current lack of evidence in relation to long-term health effects of using e-cigarettes, and their secondhand emissions.
As such, the Royal Pharmaceutical Society would recommend the following policy actions as a matter of priority to minimise the potential undermining of existing public health tobacco control measures:
- The Government should ensure that any e-cigarettes not licensed as medicinal products have advertising and sales restricted in line with the restrictions of tobacco products.
- The UK and Scottish Governments should follow the Welsh Government policy and include e-cigarettes in the public spaces smoking ban to avoid the normalisation of e-cigarettes and their potential negative influences on lifestyle choices, particularly for young people.