Royal College of Physicians: E-Cigs Should be Promoted ‘as Widely as Possible’

Report suggests electronic cigarettes are 95% safer than cigarettes

LONDON -- One of the first organizations to identify the health hazards of combustible cigarettes has just released a report that finds electronic cigarettes and vapor products are safe and viable alternatives to cigarettes. Released Thursday by the Royal College of Physicians (RCP), the 200-page “Nicotine Without Smoke: Tobacco Harm Reduction” report concludes that it is in the interest of public health to promote vapor products (and other noncombustible nicotine products) as substitutes for cigarettes. In fact, the RCP’s analysis finds that vapor products pose no more than 5% of the risks as cigarette smoking, and that figure might be “substantially lower.”

A press release issued by the RCP said a key takeaway from this analysis is that “any potential risks of vapor products must be compared against those posed by smoking.”

“Some harm from sustained exposure to low levels of toxins over many years may yet emerge, but the magnitude of these risks relative to those of sustained tobacco smoking is likely to be small,” the RCP release continued. “However, the absolute magnitude of any risk attributable to e-cigarette use is likely to be very small in absolute terms, and hence substantially smaller than that arising from tobacco smoking.”

Authored by the RCP’s Tobacco Advisory Group, the report reviewed the latest scientific evidence on smoking, nicotine use and alternative products. Other key findings included:

  • Vaping is not a gateway product: E-cig use in the United Kingdom is almost exclusive to current or previous tobacco users.
  • Vaping does not “normalize” smoking: There was no evidence that e-cig or nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) use has led to the re-normalization of smoking, as none of these products have led to “significant” use from adults who have never smoked or served as a gateway to smoking for minors.
  • Vaping aids cessation: Use of e-cigs by smokers has been “likely to lead” to cessation attempts that wouldn’t have normally happened and “a proportion of these” attempts have been successful. “In this way, e-cigarettes can act as a gateway from smoking.”

“The growing use of electronic cigarettes as a substitute for tobacco smoking has been a topic of great controversy, with much speculation over their potential risks and benefits,” said professor John Britton, chair of the RCP’s Tobacco Advisory Group. “This report lays to rest almost all of the concerns over these products, and concludes that, with sensible regulation, electronic cigarettes have the potential to make a major contribution towards preventing the premature death, disease and social inequalities in health that smoking currently causes in the U.K. Smokers should be reassured that these products can help them quit all tobacco use forever.”

Vaping and harm-reduction advocates have been quick to point out parallels between this report and the RCP’s 1962 report on the dangers of cigarette use, which predated the U.S. Surgeon General’s report on smoking by a full two years.

“This is a game changer, just like the 1962 RCP report on the effects of smoking on health,” David Sweanor, an adjunct professor of law at the University of Ottawa’s Center for Health Law, Policy & Ethics, told CSP Daily News. “Those with a vested interest against it will speak out against it, but the science has spoken.”

Dr. Michael Siegel, a professor of Community Health Sciences at the Boston University School of Public Health, expressed similar sentiments on his Tobacco Analysis blog.

“It is a breath of fresh air that helps to clean out some of the stench we have been getting from the completely non-evidence-based rhetoric and propaganda we have been getting for the past six years from anti-nicotine organizations and researchers in the U.S. and from numerous health agencies and regulatory bodies, including the FDA and the CDC,” Siegel said of the report.

“When the RCP told the truth about cigarettes in 1962, it took two years for the U.S. government to play catch up and release its own report,” Gregory Conley, president of the American Vaping Association, added in a press release on the RCP report. “It should not take two months, let alone two years, for American public health authorities to correct their past misstatements about vaping. The FDA and CDC must seriously consider the RCP's guidance before moving forward on any new regulations or public campaigns about smoke-free nicotine products.”

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