Tobacco

E-cigarettes

Hand holding e-cigaretteDoctors want to see strong regulation of e-cigarettes. Regulating e-cigarettes as  a licensed medicinal product best reflects their use for harm reduction and ensures their effectiveness, quality, and safety.

The BMA recognises their potential for supporting tobacco harm reduction. There is, however, a lack of robust research and evidence in this area, and any benefits or disadvantages to public health are not yet well established. 

Doctors should also be aware of the latest NICE guidance on tobacco harm reduction for patients who are not ready or able to quit smoking entirely but wish to cut down.

Why are we concerned about e-cigarettes?

'We need strong regulation of e-cigarettes to ensure that they are safe and effective in reducing harm and do not reinforce the normalcy of smoking behaviour.'

BMA Board of Science deputy chair Ram Moorthy

E-cigarettes are battery-operated products designed to replicate smoking behaviour without the use of tobacco. Some look like conventional cigarettes, while others appear more like an electronic device. 

E-cigarettes are increasingly being used by current and ex-smokers to help cut down and quit smoking.

While e-cigarettes have the potential to support tobacco harm reduction, any benefits or disadvantages to public health are not yet well established. 

This reflects the lack of conclusive evidence of their effectiveness as a smoking cessation aid, concerns regarding the variability of the components of e-cigarette vapour, and the absence of a significant health benefit associated with dual use of e-cigarettes and tobacco cigarettes.

To ensure the development and use of e-cigarettes contributes to public health objectives, there is a need for a strong regulatory framework. Regulating e-cigarettes as a licensed medicinal product best reflects their use for harm reduction, ensures their effectiveness, quality, and safety, and provides the necessary controls on their promotion and sale. 

 

Regulation

As of 2016 all e-cigarettes containing more than 20mg/ml nicotine will require medicines licensing through the MHRA. E-cigarettes containing less than 20mg/ml of nicotine will be classified as tobacco-containing products and regulated under the provisions of the European Tobacco Products Directive.

New rules governing the advertising of e-cigarettes are in force, the BMA will continue to monitor e-cigarette advertising to ensure they are not promoted to young people or non-smokers, and do not reinforce the normalcy of smoking behaviour. 

At the BMA's 2014 annual meeting, our members called on governments to prohibit 'vaping' on e-cigarettes in public places where smoking is prohibited.

Read the BMA response to the WHO report into e-cigarettes

 

Downloads

BMA calls for strong regulation of e-cigarettes (updated, November 2014)