E-cigarettes should be used more extensively in smoking cessation services says the Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH).
The society has released a report, Smoking cessation: taking a harm reduction approach, outlining a number of measures the government should consider to speed up the process of cutting the levels of smokers in the UK.
The RSPH is calling on commissioners and smoking cessation services to consider trialling an 'e-cigarette friendly' approach and evaluating the potential effectiveness of these products for supporting smoking cessation.
The document states that there is significant variation in the approach to e-cigarettes as a smoking cessation tool. The stop smoking service in Leicester became the first 'e-cigarette friendly' service in 2014 meaning that they provide support and guidance to those seeking to quit using an e-cigarette.
The RSPH also states that an e-cigarette should be referred to by another name as they are very different to cigarettes, as they do not have the same substances in them. It suggests either nicotine sticks or vaporiser.
Shirley Cramer CBE, chief executive of RSPH, said: 'Over 100,000 people die from smoking-related disease every year in the UK. While we have made good progress to reduce smoking rates, one in five of us still does. Most people smoke through habit and to get their nicotine hit. 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 – clearly there are issues in terms of having smokers addicted to nicotine, but this would move us on from having a serious and costly public health issue from smoking related disease to instead address the issue of addiction to a substance which in and of itself is not too dissimilar to caffeine addiction.'
The document also calls for the introduction of a smoking exclusion zone around pubs bars and school. This would still allow the use of e-cigarettes but not cigarette smoking. The society highlights that previous smoking bans in public places has successful reduced the number of people who smoke.