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Call for clarity over nicotine’s effects

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Smokers may be put off by e-cigarettes Smokers may be put off by e-cigarettes

The Royal Society of Public Health has urged healthcare professionals to educate the public on the minimal health risk posed by nicotine in smoking cessation aids.

The call came after a survey performed by the Royal Society of Public Health found that 90% of people believe that nicotine is directly harmful to health. They say that while nicotine is addictive, it is 'fairly harmless' and it is the chemicals in tobacco products that damage the lungs and body. The society has said that patients may be put off using smoking cessation aids such as e-cigarettes and nicotine chewing gum due to the perception that the nicotine in these products is just as harmful as tobacco.

Hazel Cheeseman, director of policy at health charity Action on Smoking and Health said: 'Scientists have known for many years that it's the smoke in cigarettes that's deadly not the nicotine. Unfortunately this is not yet well understood by smokers, medical professionals or the media, many of whom still think nicotine causes cancer and heart disease. The persistence of this misconception will cost lives as smokers who otherwise would switch to alternative sources of nicotine are put off. The time for this misunderstanding to be put right is long overdue.'

The society also called for several changes to be made to current anti-smoking policy. These include renaming e-cigarettes nicotine sticks or vapourisers to distance them from cigarettes, introducing a mandatory smoking exclusion zone around pubs, bars and schools, which would allow use of e-cigarettes but not tobacco products, and requiring shops that sell tobacco products to sell nicotine replacement products alongside them.

Shirley Cramer, chief executive of the Royal Society of Public Health, said: 'Clearly we would rather people didn't smoke, but in line with NICE guidance on reducing the harm from tobacco, using safer forms of nicotine such as NRT and e-cigarettes are effective in helping people quit. Getting people onto nicotine rather than using tobacco would make a big difference to the public's health.

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