UK Committee on Toxicity report on e-cigarettes

  • Public Health England
  • 9 Sep 2020

  • curated by Dawn O'Shea
  • UK Medical News
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E-cigarettes are likely to reduce the harm to health if used as a replacement for conventional cigarettes but still pose a risk to health, says the independent Committee on Toxicity of Chemicals in Food, Consumer Products and the Environment (COT).

Given that PHE recommends the use of e-cigarettes as part of smoking cessation programmes, the COT was commissioned by the Department of Health and Social Care and Public Health England to assess the potential risk to health from nicotine and non-nicotine e-cigarettes. In a new report, the COT states that switching from conventional cigarettes to e-cigarettes is likely to reduce health risks but says some risks will be reduced more than others. For example, the risk of developing lung cancer is likely to be reduced more than the risk of triggering asthma symptoms.

Professor Alan Boobis, Chair of the COT, said: “Our assessment on e-cigarettes largely reinforces the scientific consensus to date on their relative safety, that while not without risk they are significantly less harmful than smoking. On the types of effects, our assessment shows that e-cigarette users might experience similar types of effects on their health as can occur from smoking conventional cigarettes, such as an increase in signs of respiratory and cardiovascular disease, particularly in those suffering from these conditions, or local irritation such as a burning sensation in the throat, nose, or eyes. But our study does provide reassurance that the health risks to bystanders from the vapour is generally low.”

The COT also found that:

  • E-cigarette users who do not already use tobacco products risk negative effects on their health.
  • The possible health risk of inhaling flavouring ingredients used in e-liquids is as yet unknown, particularly in the long term.
  • Health risk to bystanders from vaping is low in most situations, however, some effects from high exposure to nicotine in the air may occur.

As information and science relating to e-cigarettes continues to develop, the committee says it will keep the area under review.