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Are E-cigarettes really a healthier alternative to traditional cigarettes?


A Leeds Beckett University researcher has called for more research into the long-term health effects of E-cigarettes.


Senior Research Fellow, Dr Stuart Flint, says the long-term health effects are not yet known and promoting E-cigarettes in anti-smoking campaigns as a ‘healthier alternative’ is premature.

In a letter, titled ‘The irresponsible promotion of E-cigarettes and Swaptober’ published in ‘The Lancet Respiratory Medicine’, Dr Flint, who is based at Leeds Beckett’s Carnegie School of Sport, explains his concerns:

“Offering E-cigarettes as an alternative to normal cigarettes, alongside evidence-based medicinal products, such as nicotine patches, is premature, and preliminary evidence even suggests E-cigarette use may actually have a harmful effect in relevant patient groups.

“We need to understand more about the potential health effects of E-cigarettes before they’re used as an alternative for stopping smoking.”

Stoptober is an initiative every October that aims to support smokers who are trying to quit. The campaign promotes the use of E-cigarettes – devices that Dr Flint says are not understood in terms of the long-term health benefits or harms.

Swaptober aims to convert smokers from traditional cigarettes to E-cigarettes with E-cigarettes being promoted as a healthier alternative to smoking and as a first step towards stopping smoking for people who are finding it difficult to stop. However, E-cigarette companies do not encourage smoking cessation, but more to make a long-term swap.

Explaining his concerns, Dr Flint said: “There is, at best, very low-quality evidence of E-cigarettes promoting smoking cessation or reduction, and insufficient data for confident estimation.

“Given that further understanding of the health implications of E-cigarettes is needed, promotion to the public, including youth and vulnerable populations who are at risk of shorter-term effects, is not an appropriate implementation strategy.

“NICE have called for caution regarding recommendations for E-cigarettes as a suitable alternative due to the lack of evidence regarding long-term health effects. This contradicts the views of a range of expert advice, which advocates wide promotion of E-cigarettes as a substitute for smoking.

“The contradictory stance of the UK’s expert health organisations is likely to confuse public understanding. Until there is substantial evidence on the health implications of E-cigarettes, it is irresponsible, unethical and potentially harmful for health organisations to promote E-cigarettes.”

The House of Commons Science and Technology Select Committee have launched an inquiry into E-cigarette impact, implications and regulation.

The full article can be found at http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lanres/article/PIIS2213-2600(17)30473-3/fulltext

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