Using e-cigarettes is “definitely less harmful” than smoking tobacco, health experts have declared.
More than 20 organisations from the NHS and Scottish Government to charities and academic institutions have joined forces to “clarify perceptions ” surrounding the harms and benefits of vaping.
They said that smokers switching to e-cigarettes will take in far fewer cancer-causing chemicals and said vaping could help them find a way of quitting the habit.
However, they stressed that using e-cigarettes while still smoking tobacco does not benefit people’s health.
The “consensus statement” has been published by NHS Health Scotland.
It says: “There is now agreement based on the current evidence that vaping e-cigarettes is definitely less harmful than smoking tobacco.
“Although most e-cigarettes contain nicotine, which is addictive, vaping carries less risk than smoking tobacco. Thus, it would be a good thing if smokers used them instead of tobacco.
“Using e-cigarettes without stopping smoking (dual use) does not provide health benefits. Anyone who is using both should be strongly encouraged to stop smoking tobacco as soon as they can.”
Dr Andrew Fraser, director of public health science at NHS Health Scotland, said: “Recent research has shown an emerging perception among the general public that e-cigarettes are just as harmful to health as tobacco is.
“This is not the case – we know from current evidence that vaping carries less risk than smoking tobacco.
“To be absolutely clear, e-cigarettes are useful for public health and health service purposes only as a potential route towards stopping smoking completely. Access to e-cigarettes needs to be controlled carefully; they are not products for children or non-smokers.”
Anti-smoking charity ASH Scotland is one of the contributors to the document.
Chief executive Sheila Duffy said: “Although we still don’t know the long-term health effects of vaping, we can be confident that any smoker switching entirely to e-cigarettes will be taking in far fewer cancer-causing chemicals.
“Tobacco is lethal and I’d encourage anyone who smokes to find a way of quitting that works for them, which could include using e-cigarettes, and to make use of the free NHS stop-smoking support available to help.”
The statement was led by NHS Health Scotland in collaboration with ASH Scotland, the British Lung Foundation, Cancer Research UK, Chest Heart and Stroke Scotland, Directors of Public Health, Faculty of Public Health, NHS Ayrshire & Arran, NHS Greater Glasgow & Clyde, NHS Tayside, RCGP, RCPSE, RCPSG, the Royal Environmental Health Institute of Scotland, the Scottish Collaboration for Public Health Research Policy, the Scottish Government’s Chief Medical Officer, the Scottish Thoracic Society, the UK Centre for Tobacco & Alcohol Studies and the Universities of Edinburgh and Stirling.