MPs in an all-party select committee on science and technology have published their long-awaited report into vaping and are calling on the government to scrap the ban on vaping in public places, including on trains and buses. The report states that the government is missing out on the opportunity to cut deaths related to smoking and also calls for tax cuts on vaping and increased advertising for e-cigarettes.
In many ways, vaping is a regulation in the same way as smoking, and the committee is urging the government to relax these measures.
Results of the investigation into vaping
This report highlights Public Health England’s estimate that vaping is up to 95% less harmful than cigarette smoking, as it lacks the tar and carbon monoxide of cigarettes. The researchers also found it nigh impossible to assess any damage from the second-hand vapour issued by e-cigarettes, as any compounds released are too minimal to be measured.
It also highlights that health risks to smokers far outweigh any uncertainty surrounding the possible harm of vaping. The Chairman of the Committee, Sir Norman Lamb, commented: “The blunt fact is that 79,000 people in England still die of smoking every year, which is sort of unconscionable, particularly when we know there is the means by which we can reduce the death toll.”
Sir Norman is particularly interested in the ways vaping can be used to help people with mental health problems. His history as a former social care minister has given him a keen interest in this field and he states that smoking rates for people with mental health issues are around 40%, which is a far higher figure than for the population as a whole. He said: “It is really shocking that a third of mental health trusts within our NHS ban e-cigarettes. When people are patients, it is a golden opportunity to influence behaviour, yet our NHS is failing to follow the evidence.”
Further findings: children and medical licences
The report estimates that around 2.9mn people in the UK use e-cigarettes in an attempt to stop smoking, and it has helped tens of thousands of people to successfully quit smoking each year.
Concerns have been raised that children will try out vaping and get hooked on nicotine, but the report dismisses this suggestion. Sir Norman said arguing that e-cigarettes act as a gateway into smoking “…just doesn’t hold water. Children try them but the numbers that continue are tiny.”
Ways in which e-cigarettes can obtain a medical licence are also discussed in the report, so that vaping products can potentially be prescribed by GPs.
Regulations on tank sizes are also discussed in this report as “the limit on the strength of refills makes some users have to puff harder to get the nicotine they seek and may put some heavy smokers off persisting with them.”
Daniel Pryor from the Adam Smith Institute commented that this report was “fantastic news for public health and consumer choice. The majority of UK smokers don’t know that e-cigarettes are significantly safer than smoking, and this situation is getting worse.”
More research is needed
The report concludes that more research should be carried out into e-cigarettes and also heat-not-burn tobacco products. You can read the full report on the government website.
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