Aug 20, 2015 09:54 PM EDT
E-cigarettes and vaping, a smokeless alternative to traditional smoking, can be safer and could lead to the demise of the traditional cigarette, according to Public Health England (PHE). This is the first official recognition that e-cigarettes are less damaging to human health than the traditional smoking tobacco.
The British health body concluded that e-cigarettes are about 95% less harmful than tobacco cigarettes. The PHE added that e-cigarettes could one day be dispensed as a licensed medicine in an alternative to other anti-smoking products such as nicotine chewing gum and nicotine patches.
PHE mentioned that that e-cigarettes are far from free being risk-free. However, the health body now believes that e-cigarettes alternative has the potential to contribute "to the endgame for tobacco".
PHE's official message was backed by the government's chief medical officer, Sally Davies. According to him, we still lack evidence on the long-term use of e-cigarettes but they are clearly less harmful on short term than smoking tobacco. She added nevertheless that the e-cigarettes are better to be used only as a means to help smokers quit and not as a long-term replacement to traditional tobacco cigarettes.
Davies declared that she would like to see e-cigarettes products coming to the market as licensed medicines. This way, consumers would have assurance on the quality, safety, and efficacy of these products as quitting aids.
The 111-page review study raises some concerns about the cost and length of the government's licensing process. Since this is a key part of the revised strategy to cut tobacco use, it is important to reduce the waiting time frame of implementing new official policies on tobacco use and its alternatives.
Unlike other nicotine-replacement therapies such as patches, lozenges, and gums, up to date no e-cigarettes have yet been licensed. Meanwhile, pilot schemes in the City of London and Leicester allow stop-smoking specialists to offer free e-cigarette starter kits, however, smokers elsewhere cannot be offered prescription e-cigarettes.
The Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency started to work in this area over two years ago, and since then many manufacturers have complained that it costs them millions to go through the process.
The public health minister in England, Jane Ellison, reminded smokers that quitting completely remains the best thing they could do to avoid falling victim to the country's number one killer. According to her, even if the e-cigarettes may help adults to quit, these e-cigarettes were made illegal for those under 18 years old in an attempt to protect children from the dangers of nicotine.
According to the review nearly all of the 2.6 million adults in the U.K. using e-cigarettes are current or former conventional smokers. There is no data to suggest that e-cigarettes might be a gateway into tobacco smoking since less than 1% of adults who are regular e-cigarette users had never smoked.
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