BMA report

E-cigarettes: balancing risks and opportunities

This paper discusses the regulation of e-cigarettes and argues for an approach that seeks to minimise their risks while maximising their potential to reduce the health burden associated with smoking.

Location: UK
Audience: Public health doctors
Updated: Monday 7 September 2020
Topics: Population health
Public Health Article Illustration

What you will get from this report

  • Answers to some common questions about e-cigarettes to support doctors when discussing their use with patients.
  • Key messages for policymakers about safety, effectiveness and regulation.
  • Research and data to support decisions about the use of e-cigarettes.


Key findings

  • There is growing consensus that using an e-cigarette is substantially safer than smoking tobacco.
  • Unlike smoking, e-cigarette use does not involve combustion. While the constituents of e-cigarette vapour can vary, and some of the toxicants present in tobacco smoke have been detected in e-cigarette aerosol, they are typically present at levels which are much lower than in tobacco smoke.
  • E-cigarettes currently available are consumer-regulated products which have to meet product safety standards, but the standards are not as rigorous as for licensed medicines.
  • Given the limited time for which these products have been widely available, there is limited information about the long-term health impact of their use.
  • E-cigarette use
  • E-cigarette regulation in the UK
  • Summary of key legislation/regulation for e-cigarettes
  • Medical licensing of e-cigarettes
  • E-cigarettes and the tobacco industry
  • Reducing tobacco-related harm
  • Long-term health impact of e-cigarette use
  • Effectiveness of e-cigarettes for smoking cessation
  • What impact are e-cigarettes having on smoking prevalence?
  • E-cigarette product regulation that supports harm-reduction
  • Ensuring children and young people do not use e-cigarettes
  • Protecting bystanders
  • Research to inform future regulatory and policy approaches
  • Next steps