House of Commons E-Cigarette Inquiry

Houses of Parliament UK

E-cigarettes have long been a subject of debate since first hitting stores around a decade ago. While a number of scientific studies have extolled the virtues of the e-cigarette as a much safer alternative to smoking, scaremongering and scepticism surrounding the product have left many smokers and non-smokers unsure whether or not to give them a try.

Inquiry into e-cigarettes announced

In an attempt to calm the storm surrounding e-cigarettes and lay down some regulation about their usage, it was announced in October 2017 that MPs would carry out an inquiry into the products. The Science and Technology Committee have been accepting written evidence since then to help give them a clear picture of the effectiveness of e-cigarettes and vapers as tools to stop smoking, as well as their impact on health in general. This process is a really important step for smokers and public health in general: if the evidence shows that e-cigarettes are, in fact, much safer than smoking, the ways in which this could save lives and cut pressures on the NHS could be groundbreaking.

What evidence have they managed to collect?

The first session of the inquiry into e-cigarettes took place on Tuesday 9th January and came up with some interesting and valuable pieces of information. The information gathered for this session was passed along by anti-smoking campaigners, public health experts, businesses and other parties with an investment in the issue. Indeed, there is a wide range of people interested in the issue of e-cigarettes, which is a testament to both their controversial status and their potential ability to save many lives.

Overall, there was some very compelling evidence presented that e-cigarettes are, as many have been arguing for years, much safer than smoking. Professor Peter Hajek, Professor of Clinical Psychology at Queen Mary University of London and Professor Riccardo Polosa, Professor of Internal Medicine at the University of Catania presented particularly interesting and compelling evidence at the Science and Technology Committee, which can be viewed here:

Polosa’s presentation was interesting in that he explained that many scientific studies demonising e-cigarettes had actually misunderstood how the items are used, misusing them when gathering their test results. Indeed, clearing up this kind of poor practice in experiments is vital in reaching some reliable conclusions in the e-cigarette debate. Polosa also went on to discredit claims about the supposedly harmful effects of passive vaping and presented some fascinating results about his own long-term study into the effect of e-cigarettes.

Clearing up issues surrounding e-cigarettes as a gateway into smoking

The idea that e-cigarettes can be dangerous in their propensity to act as a gateway into cigarettes was largely discredited by public health experts speaking at the committee. Indeed, Hajek noted that smoking remained unattractive to many smokers. Others pointed out that actual evidence for e-cigarettes being a gateway into smoking is very thin on the ground. Evidence that vaping can be a great way to quit smoking, however, abounds.

What is likely to come out of this inquiry?

Overall, the first session of the inquiry has made a great case for e-cigarettes as a valuable tool for those who want to quit smoking. However, scepticism surrounding their use is still prevalent in society, so it remains to be seen how well this information will be used to inform productive and balanced new regulations.