Relax e-cigarette regulations to help smokers quit, say MPs

Cancer Research UK

E-cigarettes are being overlooked as a stop smoking tool too often by the NHS, the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee concluded in their new report.

They echoed the findings from Public Health England in saying that e-cigarettes are 95% less harmful than smoking conventional cigarettes.  They also concluded that concerns around e-cigarettes acting as a ‘gateway’ for young non-smokers have not materialised.

The report estimates that almost 500,000 people in the UK are using e-cigs as a stop smoking aid. And each year, tens of thousands of people are using e-cigarettes to successfully quit smoking. But the committee raised concerns that misconceptions around e-cigarette safety in some NHS Trusts could be limiting their potential.

“If used correctly, e-cigarettes could be a key weapon in the NHS’s stop smoking arsenal.” - Norman Lamb MP, Chair of the Science and Technology Committee.

Relaxing e-cigarette regulations

The committee reviewed over 100 pieces of written evidence and held five evidence sessions, hearing from experts, health authorities and industry.

Based on the evidence gathered, the report recommended that e-cigarettes should not be treated in the same way as conventional cigarettes to maximise their potential as a quit tool by smokers. The recommendations include:

  • Lifting the ban on manufacturers making claims about the relative safety of e-cigarettes compared with conventional cigarettes
  • Streamlining the process for e-cigarettes to be licensed as medical devices
  • A debate on vaping in public spaces
  • A review of limits on refill strengths and tank sizes
  • An annual review of the health effects of e-cigarettes and heat-not-burn products

George Butterworth, senior policy manager at Cancer Research UK welcomed the report’s recognition that e-cigarettes are significantly less harmful than smoking tobacco. 

“The Government should carefully consider the report’s recommendations,” he said. “But any changes to current e-cigarette regulations should be aimed at helping smokers to quit whilst preventing young people from starting to use e-cigarettes.”