Using e-cigarettes is significantly less harmful than traditional tobacco products, according to a review of the products published by Public Health England (PHE).
The review, E-cigarettes: an evidence update, found that smoking cessation aids such as e-cigarettes were approximately 95% less damaging to health than smoking cigarettes and other tobacco products. The review report also showed that there is negligible evidence to suggest that the rise in the use of e-cigarettes was leading non-smokers and children to smoking.
The authors of the report cited concerns about public knowledge and attitudes toward e-cigarettes. The report showed that 44.8% of the public were unaware that using an e-cigarette was much less harmful than smoking, while 22.1% of people thought that e-cigarettes were as harmful or worse than smoking tobacco in 2015, compared to 8.1% in 2013.
Hazel Cheeseman, director of policy at Action on Smoking and Health, said: 'We need to communicate with patients to make sure they understand the relative safety of using e-cigarettes. Health professionals should educate patients on this and make sure that they are supportive if a patient wishes to use an e-cigarette to stop smoking. E-cigarettes are not going to be a magic bullet but we must take the opportunity if it will reduce smoking.'
As e-cigarettes are not a licensed product, they cannot be prescribed by healthcare professionals. However, the report suggested that the benefits of e-cigarettes could merit a review of licensing the products, which could lead to them being prescribed in general practice and other settings.
Professor Kevin Fenton, director of health and wellbeing at PHE, said: 'E-cigarettes are not completely risk-free but when compared to smoking, evidence shows they carry just a fraction of the harm. The problem is people increasingly think they are at least as harmful and this may be keeping millions of smokers from quitting. Local stop smoking services should look to support e-cigarette users in their journey to quitting completely.'
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