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PHE’s e-cigarette review attracts interest

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On 6th February 2018 Public Health England published it’s review of e-cigarettes. This generated considerable media interest in the prospect of e-cigs being on prescription but there were many other important points raised.

The main findings of PHE’s evidence review are that:

  • vaping poses only a small fraction of the risks of smoking and switching completely from smoking to vaping conveys substantial health benefits
  • e-cigarettes could be contributing to at least 20,000 successful new quits per year and possibly many more
  • e-cigarette use is associated with improved quit success rates over the last year and an accelerated drop in smoking rates across the country
  • many thousands of smokers incorrectly believe that vaping is as harmful as smoking; around 40% of smokers have not even tried an e-cigarette
  • there is much public misunderstanding about nicotine (less than 10% of adults understand that most of the harms to health from smoking are not caused by nicotine)
  • the use of e-cigarettes in the UK has plateaued over the last few years at just under 3 million
  • the evidence does not support the concern that e-cigarettes are a route into smoking among young people (youth smoking rates in the UK continue to decline, regular use is rare and is almost entirely confined to those who have smoked)

PHE is calling on smokers and a number of bodies to act on the evidence.

Smokers

Anyone who has struggled to quit should try switching to an e-cigarette and get professional help. The greatest quit success is among those who combine using an e-cigarette with support from a local stop smoking service.

Local stop smoking services and healthcare professionals

These should provide behavioural support to those smokers wanting to quit with the help of an e-cigarette. A new training course on e-cigarettes for healthcare professionals by the National Centre for Smoking Cessation and Training is now live.

Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA)

MHRA continue their work in regulating and licensing e-cigarette products and support manufacturers to expedite the licensing of e-cigarettes as medicinal quit aids. PHE believes there is compelling evidence that e-cigarettes be made available to NHS patients.

NHS Trusts

To become truly smokefree, Trusts should ensure

  • e-cigarettes, alongside nicotine replacement therapies are available for sale in hospital shops
  • vaping policies support smokers to quit and stay smokefree
  • smoking shelters be removed
  • frontline staff take every opportunity to encourage and support patients to quit

The government’s new Tobacco Control Plan for England includes a commitment to ‘maximise the availability of safer alternatives to smoking’. It makes clear that e-cigarettes have an important part to play in achieving the ambition for a smokefree generation.

Read the PHE press release here and ASH’s supportive statement here

Read PHE’s blog on the key questions and findings here

PH2017iPiP/TCCC’s Paul Hooper was interviewed by BBC Hereford and Worcester as an introduction to their hour-long phone-in and managed to avoid being drawn into the controversy of people being allowed to smoke in hospital beds! Whatever the prompt though, it was good that so much media time was devoted to encouraging people to quit smoking.


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