Banning flavoured e-cigarettes could stop smokers from seeing vaping as an alternative option to smoking tobacco, Public Health England (PHE) has said.
In its sixth annual vaping review, PHE concluded that vaping is a safer alternative to smoking tobacco. This supports its current stance that smokers who want to quit should switch to e-cigarettes.
But if flavoured vapes are banned, the body said, it could discourage smokers from doing so and ultimately lead to fewer people giving up smoking.
The review, ‘Vaping in England: an evidence update including mental health and pregnancy,’ published on 4 March, said that more than half of adult smokers in England incorrectly believe that vaping is as harmful as smoking tobacco.
It stressed the importance of tackling this misconception, as these views could prevent some smokers from using vaping products to quit smoking.
Professor John Newton, Director of Health Improvement at Public Health England, said: ‘Safety fears may well be deterring many smokers from switching, leaving them on a path to years of ill health and early death due to their smoking.’
The belief that e-cigarettes are as harmful as or more harmful than smoking is thought to have come from reports about an outbreak of lung problems in the US last year, according to the paper.
Since then, the US has confirmed that vitamin E acetate – a thickening agent added to cannabis vaping products and that is banned in UK-regulated products – was the main cause of the outbreak.
As it currently stands, PHE advice is that smokers should switch to e-cigarettes to help them quit smoking. But those attempting to quit should not rely solely on e-cigarettes and look to other stop-smoking aids and behavioural support to improve their chances of succeeding.
The Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) has taken an opposing stance to PHE. It has called for sweet flavouring agents used in e-cigarettes to be banned due to fears that they encourage young people to take up smoking.
In response to the PHE report, head of corporate communications at the RPS, Neal Patel, said: ‘We will carefully consider the new evidence from Public Health England on flavoured vaping liquids.
‘Our current view is that sweet flavouring agents should be banned to minimise the appeal to young people. We still recommend that pharmacists advise smokers to use licenced nicotine replacement therapy products rather than e-cigarettes’.