Time to re-think vaping bans

An expert independent evidence review published today by Public Health England (PHE) concludes that e-cigarettes are 95% less harmful to health than tobacco and have the potential to help smokers quit smoking.

The research concluded that “e-cigarettes pose no risk of nicotine poisoning to users” and “e-cigarettes release negligible levels of nicotine into ambient air with no identified health risks to bystanders”.

Public Health England says “there is an opportunity for e-cigarettes to help tackle the high smoking rates”. Those who ban e-cigarettes are therefore an obstacle to a healthier nation.

As previously reported here, contractors Willmott Dixon and Skanska, plant hire group Hewden and machinery manufacturer JCB are among construction industry companies that have banned e-cigarettes, adopting policies that consider e-cigarettes to be no different from tobacco.

However, they will need to rethink their policies. It now emerges that companies who wish to do good by employees would be better advised to allow vaping in the workplace and even provide employees who smoke with e-cigarette substitutes to encourage them to quit tobacco.

Public Health England chief executive Duncan Selbie said: “In a nutshell, best estimates show e-cigarettes are 95% less harmful to your health than normal cigarettes, and when supported by a smoking cessation service, help most smokers to quit tobacco altogether.”

Professor Kevin Fenton, director of health and wellbeing at Public Health England, said that banning vaping discourages smokers from quitting tobacco. “Smoking remains England’s number one killer and the best thing a smoker can do is to quit completely, now and forever,” he said. “E-cigarettes are not completely risk free but when compared to smoking, evidence shows they carry just a fraction of the harm. The problem is people increasingly think they are at least as harmful and this may be keeping millions of smokers from quitting.”

Professor Ann McNeill of King’s College London, an independent author of the review, said: “E-cigarettes could be a game changer in public health, in particular by reducing the enormous health inequalities caused by smoking.”

Even Cancer Research has now come out in favour of vaping. Professor Linda Bauld, Cancer Research UK’s expert in cancer prevention, said: “Fears that e-cigarettes have made smoking seem normal again or even led to people taking up tobacco smoking are not so far being realised based on the evidence assessed by this important independent review. In fact, the overall evidence points to e-cigarettes actually helping people to give up smoking tobacco.”