The use of electronic cigarettes is one of the most controversial topics in public health in recent years. There is intense debate and dividing opinions about their use, the potential health benefits and possible harm. There is little doubt among all parties that they are less harmful than combustible cigarettes, but should they be promoted as smoking cessation aids? And should they be allowed or even promoted in public spaces?
To address these issues the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee held a series of interviews with 25 witnesses with a range of expertise, consulted over 100 written submissions and reviewed how e-cigarettes could reduce smoking-related harm, their role in smoking cessation, future regulation and drew up the green paper.1
While combustible cigarettes contain tobacco and when smoked produce carbon monoxide (CO), tar and numerous other toxic chemicals, e-cigarettes contain a nicotine liquid which is heated and vaporised, do not contain CO or tar and significantly lower levels of other toxins. However the effects of inhaling the solvent, usually propylene glycol and glycerol, and the numerous flavourings available over a long period of time has yet to be determined.