Smokers should be encouraged to use e-cigarettes as they are much safer than smoking tobacco, the Royal College of Physicians has recommended.
A report by its Tobacco Advisory Group has concluded that e-cigarettes are likely to benefit public health in the UK, and that smokers can be reassured about using them.
Its 200 page report and an analysis article in the BMJ sets out a number of findings and draws several conclusions, including:
provision of the nicotine that smokers are addicted to without the harmful components of tobacco smoke can prevent most of the harm from smoking;
e-cigarettes are marketed as consumer products and are proving much more popular than nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) as a substitute and competitor for tobacco cigarettes;
e-cigarettes appear to be effective when used by smokers as an aid to quitting smoking;
e-cigarettes are not currently made to medicines standards and are probably more hazardous than NRT;
the hazard to health arising from long-term vapour inhalation from the e-cigarettes available today is unlikely to exceed 5% of the harm from smoking tobacco;
available evidence to date indicates that e-cigarettes are being used almost exclusively as safer alternatives to smoked tobacco, by confirmed smokers who are trying to reduce harm to themselves or others from smoking, or to quit smoking completely.