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E-cigarettes not proven quitting aid, says BMA

E-cigarettes should not be considered a lower risk option to smoking or a way to quit the habit until regulations are tightened, the BMA insists.

It advises health professionals to use regulated and licensed nicotine replacement therapy instead to help patients stop smoking.

The association is calling for restrictions to the marketing, sale and promotion of e-cigarettes, and for clear labelling on the contents of cartridges and their safe use.

In an updated online briefing, it points out that these battery-operated devices are not licensed as a medicine in the UK and there is a lack of peer-reviewed evidence on their value in helping smokers cut down or stop.

There are also concerns that the use of e-cigarettes could threaten the norm of not smoking in public places and workplaces.

BMA director of professional activities Vivienne Nathanson said: ‘It took us many decades and hundreds of thousands of deaths to understand the connection between cigarette smoking and disease. We must not encourage use of a new system of nicotine delivery when we are unsure about its safety, or efficacy as a means of stopping smoking.

‘We are especially concerned that e-cigarettes might reinforce the smoking habit as they are designed to closely mimic smoking actions.’

The UK Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency is set to report on nicotine product regulation this spring.