Taking action on smoking and health
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NHS Health Scotland's consensus statement on e-cigarettes, September 2017
Electronic cigarettes (also known as e-cigarettes, nicotine delivery devices or nicotine vaping products) are battery-powered devices that heat a liquid often containing nicotine and flavourings into an inhalable form. ASH Scotland has produced a briefing on these devices.
ASH Scotland does not take a simplistic view either “for” or “against” electronic cigarettes. Our interest is in helping people improve their health by reducing the enormous harm caused by tobacco use. Our approach to electronic cigarettes will be guided by that principle.
In the debates over the relative risks associated with e-cigarettes, we must not lose sight of the fact that tobacco is the key concern. While the number of people who smoke has halved in the last 40 years, this still leaves 1 million people in Scotland with greatly increased risk of cancer, heart disease, stroke, dementia, arthritis and diabetes. Half of long-term smokers will die of a cause associated with their tobacco use, often after many years of debilitating illness, and tobacco is far and away the largest preventable cause of death.
We believe that ‘vaping’ will prove to be much less harmful than smoking – but not harmless, as some have suggested. So for a smoker to switch from tobacco to electronic cigarettes will bring significant health benefits, and we recommend any smoker to try the various options which might help them to quit tobacco, including e-cigarettes.
We note that the best health outcomes will still come from being free of any addictive substance.
We believe that electronic cigarettes have the potential to help smokers to quit tobacco and that the harm caused by tobacco is so great that we should seek to realise this opportunity. Nevertheless the market for any addictive product should be regulated, understanding that the companies involved are under strong commercial pressure to recruit new generations of customers.
The level of regulation should be according to the level of harm. Tobacco should be subject to the most restrictive regulatory regime, but a regulatory framework for e-cigarettes is starting to emerge.
The European Union’s Tobacco Products Directive came into force in May 2016, and has introduced:
The Health (Tobacco, Nicotine etc. and Care) (Scotland) Act 2016 introduced a range of additional restrictions:
We have not joined the various organisations calling for a ban on vaping in enclosed public places. The ban on smoking in enclosed public spaces was based on strong evidence that doing so causes harm to others. Extending this ban to include vaping should require the same kind of established evidence base and this is not the situation at this time. For more information on vaping indoors, consult our briefing on second-hand vaping.
Action on Smoking & Health (Scotland) (ASH Scotland) is a registered Scottish charity (SC 010412) and a company limited by guarantee(Scottish company no 141711). The registered office is 8 Frederick Street, Edinburgh EH2 2HB.
ASH Scotland acknowledges with thanks the support of the British Heart Foundation and the Scottish Government in developing our website.