RSPH has warmly welcomed the publication of the parliamentary Science and Technology Select Committee’s report on e-cigarettes, recognising their relative safety in comparison to conventional cigarettes, and calling on the Government to consider how it can support more people to quit smoking through vaping. 

In line with previous calls made by RSPH, the Committee has called on the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) to look at upgrading its process for the licensing of e-cigarettes as medicines – a positive move that could see many more smokers having access to e-cigarettes as a viable quitting aid. 

RSPH is concerned that, as found by the Committee’s survey, three quarters of NHS trusts are mistakenly concerned about the dangers of ‘second-hand’ e-cigarette vapour, and a third of mental health trusts still ban e-cigarettes. It is therefore particularly welcome that the committee has called for all NHS mental health facilities to permit the use of e-cigarettes by default, unless evidence-based reasons for not doing so can be provided.

The report also includes calls on the Government to:

  • Review the regulatory framework around e-cigarettes post Brexit, including reviewing restrictions on tank sizes, and on making claims for the relative health benefits of switching. 
  • Continue to review the evidence on e-cigarettes annually, and extend that review to heat-not-burn products. 
  • Ensure that e-cigarettes remain less heavily taxed than conventional cigarettes, with heat-not-burn products falling between the two. 

RSPH believes that taxation levels for e-cigarettes relative to cigarettes and heat-not-burn products should be set in line with the relative risks; that is, with cigarettes at the top of the ladder, e-cigarettes at the bottom, and heat-not-burn products to be under review as an independent evidence base begins to accumulate.  

Shirley Cramer CBE, Chief Executive, RSPH, said: “It is now well established in the public health community that the risks posed by e-cigarette use are substantially lower than from smoked tobacco, and it is encouraging that this has been reaffirmed by the Select Committee. We are particularly pleased with calls that would speed up the licensing of e-cigarettes as medicines – potentially opening the door to thousands more smokers who would otherwise not consider vaping as a means of quitting.  

“Given the evidence base, there is no good reason for e-cigarettes to be treated in the same way as conventional cigarettes, so it is important that e-cigarettes continue to be taxed at lower rates to reflect this, and to make sure there is a financial incentive to quit through vaping. We would emphasise to any smoker considering switching that not only is vaping a far safer alternative, it is also likely to be much more affordable.”