Stronger safety and quality regulation of e-cigarettes is needed if vaping is to reduce tobacco smoking, the BMA has warned.
The reaction follows a report by PHE (Public Health England) which states that the devices are less harmful than tobacco and could assist smokers looking to give up.
BMA board of science deputy chair Ram Moorthy said that he welcomed the evidence provided by the review, adding that e-cigarettes could play a role in smoking reduction, provided there were sufficient quality safeguards in place.
He said: ‘It is widely recognised that the health risks associated with their use are significantly lower than the well-established risks associated with smoking tobacco.
‘It is encouraging that PHE has conducted this long-called-for review, to enable an informed debate around [their] use.
‘We need a stronger regulatory framework that realises any public health benefit they may have, but addresses concerns from medical professionals around the inconsistent quality of e-cigarettes, the way they are marketed, and whether they are completely safe and efficient as a way to reduce tobacco harm.’
Help to quit
The PHE report, E-cigarettes: An Evidence Update — published today — estimates that they are around 95 per cent less harmful than tobacco, and finds no evidence they act as a gateway for children and non-smokers.
The report adds that vaping could potentially assist smokers looking to quit tobacco, with many of the UK's 2.6 million users either current or ex-smokers.
The BMA has consistently called for effective and robust regulation around the sale and marketing of the devices.
PHE director of health and well-being Kevin Fenton said that, with tobacco remaining the number-one cause of death in the UK, any measures aimed at reducing traditional smoking rates had to be considered.
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.
'Local stop-smoking services should look to support e-cigarette users in their journies to quitting completely.’
Read more of the report’s findings