There was positive news and healthy debate coming out of the E-Cigarette Summit 2013 held in London this week. The big question is, how should the electronic cigarette industry move forward to support and build a positive future to help rid the world of tobacco smoke. E-Cigarettes have recently been found to be as effective as nicotine patches in helping smokers quit and this type of research from progressive thinking countries is leading the way to improving public health (see Auckland University Research).
Robert West, professor of health psychology at University College London, told delegates that "literally millions of lives" could be saved. Some groups are concerned, and rightly so, that the use and marketing of electronic cigarettes could re-socialise or normalise smoking. The responsible advertising and promotion of electronic cigarettes should form part of any regulation to ensure that this is not the case. E-cigarettes are still relatively new and although more research is emerging, long term studies have not been conducted of the ongoing use of electronic cigarettes and their health impacts however, research to date has been positive.
Jeremy Mean, from the Medicines and Health Regulatory Agency (MHRA), says the MHRA’s role is to enable safe and effective products, not to ban potentially useful ones, and their role in doing so is to listen to stakeholders and protect and promote public health. Lynne Dawkins, from the University of East London, said that “while light-touch regulation was important, it must be treated with caution”. She said that e-cigarettes presented a "viable safer alternative" to offer to smokers. "We don't want to spoil this great opportunity we have for overseeing this unprecedented growth and evolving technology that has not been seen before, we have to be careful not to stump that."
Jacques Le Houezec, Consultant in Public Health, UK Centre for Tobacco Control Studies,University of Nottingham, England, discussed the inaccuracy and overestimation of nicotine overdosing in e-cigarette users. He said “smokers are able to self-titrate nicotine on a puff by puff basis” and that regulators should take this into account as studies in animals via long term use of pure nicotine has not been shown to pose health problems.
Clive Bates from The Counterfactual summed up some of the key points raised at the Summit that we should be positive about the (vast) potential of electronic cigarettes, put the (minor) risks in perspective and regulate as though the one billion projected deaths caused by traditional cigarettes matter most.