E-cigarettes become the 'alcopops of the nicotine world'

Campaigners seek tougher regulations as 'shocking' figures show that 20% of UK teenagers have tried electronic cigarettes

LAST UPDATED AT 11:25 ON Tue 31 Mar 2015

Teenagers in the UK are increasingly experimenting with electronic cigarettes, a large-scale health study has found.

"E-cigarettes have rapidly become part of at-risk teenagers' substance-using repertoires," said Professor Karen Hughes, who is one of the study’s authors. Her team believes that the electronic devices have become the "alcopops of the nicotine world" and urgently require tougher regulation.

Researchers who surveyed more than 16,000 students aged 14 to 17 in the north west of England found that boys were more likely to experiment with e-cigarettes than girls.

The study also found that teenagers who drank alcohol were "significantly" more likely to experiment with e-cigarettes than non-drinkers, the Press Association reports.

The issue of e-cigarettes continues to divide healthcare experts. Some insist they are a safer option to smoking and have helped many people give up, others say they are a public health menace with no real track record in terms of effectiveness. The World Health Organization argues that they could lead to the "renormalisation" of smoking and warns that their long term health effects are still unknown.

A ban on selling e-cigarettes to teenagers under the age of 18 has been announced in England. Similar measures may soon be introduced nationwide as a result of health concerns associated with their use, as well as fears that they could serve as a gateway to traditional cigarettes.

E-cigarettes contain "a highly addictive drug that may have more serious and longer lasting impacts on children because their brains are still developing," warned Professor Mark Bellis, who also worked on the study.

Dr John Middleton of the Faculty of Public Health told the BBC that nationwide regulation of e-cigarettes is urgently needed.

"Our concern is that if we wait for proof that electronic cigarettes could act as a gateway to smoking cigarettes, it will already have happened and the tobacco industry will have been given the opportunity to recruit its next generation of smokers," he said.

E-cigarettes should be banned indoors, says WHO   

March 27

A new report from the World Health Organization has warned that e-cigarettes could be more toxic than many people currently believe and recommended that the devices should be banned indoors. But some experts say the UN agency's advice is an "overreaction" that could cost lives.

Contrary to the claims of some manufacturers who argue that e-cigarettes are a comparatively safe alternative to smoking, the WHO's report said that e-cigarettes expose smokers and non-smokers alike to harmful chemicals.

The report urged tougher controls, arguing that the "smoke" emitted by e-cigarettes "is not merely water vapour as is often claimed in the marketing for these products", but often contains harmful pollutants. The WHO also warned that using e-cigarettes, or "vaping," could lead to a "renormalisation" of smoking.

The WHO added: "The fact that ENDS (electronic nicotine delivery systems) exhaled aerosol contains on average lower levels of toxicants than the emissions from combusted tobacco does not mean that these levels are acceptable to involuntarily exposed bystanders."

The report was welcomed by many UK health officials, the Daily Telegraph reports. Professor John Ashton of the Faculty of Public Health told the paper: "Most adult smokers start smoking before the age of 18. That's why many public health experts are concerned that the advertising of electronic cigarettes could make it seem normal again to think smoking is glamorous, when it is anything but.

"We also don't know enough yet about the harms and side effects of electronic cigarettes, and it will take years before we can be sure what they are."

However some experts believe that strict regulation could mean fewer people giving up conventional cigarettes in exchange for their electronic counterparts, which could lead to more smoking-related deaths.

Gerry Stimson, from Imperial College London, told The Times: "What is needed is light-touch regulation and a proper appreciation of trade-offs between regulation to protect consumers whilst not destroying the value these products offer to smokers who want to quit smoking".

He added: "The WHO position paper appears to have cherry-picked the science, used unnecessary scaremongering and misleading language about the effects of nicotine."

E-CIGARETTES: Safer than tobacco, say researchers

31 July

Electronic cigarettes are "less harmful" than traditional cigarettes, new analysis of recent studies has shown.

An international group of scientists analysed data from over 80 studies conducted on the use and sale of e-cigarettes. According to the BBC, it focused on safety concerns, the toxicity of the chemicals present in both the liquid and the vapour and analysed the rate of use among non-smokers as well as smokers.

The analysis also showed that e-cigarettes are not regularly being used by non-smokers or those under the age of 18. It said that there was no evidence that the products encouraged young people to start smoking.

Most significantly, scientists showed that e-cigarettes can help smokers cut down their cigarette intake and even help them quit entirely. And they warned that tough regulation of the new industry could "damage public health on a big scale".

"Regulators need to be mindful of crippling the e-cigarette market and by doing so failing to give smokers access to these safer products that could save their lives", said Professor Peter Hajek, one of the authors of the paper.

However, Prof Martin McKee, of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine pointed out that despite the research, health professionals remain "deeply divided" on the issue.

So what do we know about e-cigarettes, and should they be regulated?

What are e-cigarettes?

E-cigarettes come in a range of shapes and sizes, but common to all of them is the way they work. A built-in battery powers a small electronic heating element located in the "atomiser", which draws liquid up from a cartridge and onto the element. The solution, usually a mixture of propylene, glycol, glycerine, flavourings, and – critically – nicotine, turns to vapour and is inhaled through the mouthpiece.

Some e-cigarettes look like a regular tobacco cigarette, others look more like the top of a hookah pipe. Others still have been made to look like a traditional pipe – the kind that Sherlock Holmes smoked.

Are they dangerous?

Anna Gilmore, director of the Tobacco Control Research Group at the University of Bath told The Guardian: "E-cigarettes are certain to be way less harmful than cigarettes. Common sense would dictate that". But their long-term effects still remain unknown.

The WHO says that their safety is "illusive", noting that it is impossible to know what effect they may have on the body because "the chemicals used in electronic cigarettes have not been fully disclosed, and there are no adequate data on their emissions".

The British Medical Association (BMA) has also expressed concerns about the lack of adequate testing or controls. "The real truth," says Gilmore, "is that we just do not know. We cannot say e-cigarettes are risk-free. We cannot yet be sure what impact they will have on smoking rates or population health, whether they'll be the miracle product or not."

Should they be regulated?

Professor Robert West, of University College London told the BBC that e-cigarettes should be "regulated appropriate to what they are" and that they are "orders of magnitude safer" than tobacco cigarettes

He suggested "bespoke regulation" including banning sales for under-18s and controls on how the devices are advertised.

Dr Vivienne Nathanson, the British Medical Association's director of professional activities, told the BBC that there was evidence that children were beginning to use e-cigarettes as a direct result of marketing campaigns.

"Rather like cigarettes in the 50s and 60s, we really need to look at [advertising] and, I believe, ban it, to stop them advertising in a way that attracts children," she said.

Professor John Ashton, president of the UK's Faculty of Public Health, agreed that the possibility that advertising might impact on children was a cause for concern.

E-cigarettes are currently not regulated as medicines in the UK, the Daily Telegraph notes, but Britain's drug watchdog the MHRA wants to introduce new controls by 2016.

Are e-cigarettes bad for you? Doctors urge new controls

17 June

More research into the potential risks of e-cigarettes is needed, experts have said, after a new study found that nearly 30 million people across Europe now use the battery-powered nicotine products.

A survey of 26,500 people across 27 European countries suggested that e-cigarettes have been tried by 20.3 per cent of current smokers, 4.7 per cent of ex-smokers and 1.2 per cent of people who never smoked. The study concludes that more than 29 million European adults have tried the products.

The rise in e-cigarette use has led to a "staggering" growth in new products; around ten new brands come to market every month, Reuters reports.

The study, published in the journal Tobacco Control, emphasised the need for more research into the effects of using electronic cigarettes.

"These findings underscore the need to evaluate the potential long-term impact of e-cigarette use on consumer health, cessation and nicotine addiction and formulate a European framework for e-cigarette regulation," the report concluded.

The study was published as a group of doctors and health experts from around the globe urged the World Health Organisation (WHO) to enact new controls on e-cigarettes.

A letter to the director general of the WHO, Margaret Chan, recommended the same kind of regulation as tobacco products, with specific bans on how the devices are promoted and advertised.

The group wrote: "By moving to the e-cigarette market, the tobacco industry is only maintaining its predatory practices and increasing profits.

"Manufacturers of electronic nicotine delivery systems are making a range of false and unproven claims, misleading the public into thinking these products are harmless (they are not) and effective cessation aids (unknown)".

But the issue of how e-cigarettes should be regulated remains contentious. Last month 53 scientists urged the WHO not to impose bans on the new devices, suggesting that they may actually be beneficial to people's health.

"These products could be among the most significant health innovations of the 21st century – perhaps saving hundreds of millions of lives," they wrote. "The urge to control and suppress them as tobacco products should be resisted".

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A herd of control freaks spots another opportunity to build an empire. Next, they'll be regulating sweets. Oh . . . wait a minute . . .

It's part of the modern all-party mantra; "We're going to tax and regulate our way to prosperity".

A typical, ignorant rant from an obvious right wing troll.
Facts matter little to these people. They probably rue the day ddt was banned as well.

“Are e-cigarettes bad for you? WHO considers regulation” We don’t yet know. Concern regarding a shift in cancer dangers from lung to tongue, throat and oesophagus cancer is justified but we don’t have the statistics at the moment.

Having smoked 20 a day since the age of 14, I decided that I could no longer justify the expense, don't get me wrong, I REALLY enjoy smoking.
My 'ecig' arrived 3 weeks ago and I haven't touched a real one since. Over the past few days I've even cut down on the 'ecig'

If they where to regulate them and tax them in the same way as regular fags, I know I, and suspect many others, wouldn't bother and would continue smoking.

No, it's the parents of children lost to malaria who rue the day ddt was banned.

The response to E-Cigs is a knee-jerk reaction from the anti-smoking lobby.

Of course it is right that there should be more research into the long-term effects, but is there any other product that has had calls for regulation before any harm, of any kind, has been shown from it's use?

We need to grow up about this and calm down.

Start from the point that no serious scientists denies the fact that E-gigs are far less damaging, if they are at all damaging, than real cigs and see that as a step forward...

The point is, do they have the right to regulate and tax them?

To date, the best evidence we have is that they are no more harmful than drinking coffee. Is that taxed for "health reasons"?

The banning of DDT has contributed to the deaths of millions of people and it's use has slowly been allowed back, within strict regulation, to try and alleviate that disastrous decision.

Get your facts right...

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