17 February 2015
A recent session at the 2015 American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) meeting has provided a forum for public health officials abd tobacco industry experts to come together to dicsuss the cessation of smoking with the aid of electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes).
The AAAS panel included experts with backgrounds in global advocacy, ethics, policy, healthcare, toxicology and industry - each providing an informed viewpoint to add to the debate.
The Cochrane Collaboration, an independent authority praised for their systematic analysis of evidence, has recently published a study suggesting that e-cigarettes have a significant role in helping smokers reduce their tobacco consumption, or quit altogether. The Cochrane Review found that 9% of smokers who regularly use e-cigarettes are able to stop smoking for up to one year, comparable with the 4% of smokers who stop with the aid of nicotine-free placebo devices. Of those smokers that did not quit, 36% of e-cigarette users reduced their consumption of combustible products by half, comparable with the 28% of smokers who halved consumption with the placebo. Although only a small number of studies have been included in the Cochrane Review, the evidence presented is consistent with population level studies conducted by Action on Smoking & Health UK (ASH).
There is a developing consensus among public health professionals and scientists alike that e-cigarettes could be significantly less harmful than conventional cigarettes, coupled with a growing concern that overly cautious regulation could stifle these positive outcomes. Kevin Bridgeman (Chief Medical Officer and Director of Compliance at Nicovations Ltd - a subsidary of British American Tobacco) said: "... we believe that, in order to realize their full potential, e-cigarettes should be regulated to ensure appropriate quality and safety standards".
It is clear that a greater body of robust scientific data regarding the use of e-cigarettes is urgently needed in order to definitively establish a potential contribution to public health. Dr. Thomas Hartung, Chair of Evidence-Based Toxicology at John Hopkins University, proposes "To get there, we have to resist the reflex of discrediting each-others respective scientists. Time will tell if we are able to put the smoker's health first".
Notes to Editors