Clear The Air News Tobacco Blog Rotating Header Image

May 24th, 2016:

E-cigarettes are still ‘a bet’ and diseases may emerge within 10 or 20 years, warns Imperial College

Diseases caused by e-cigarettes could emerge within 10 or 20 years, researchers have warned as new figures showed the numbers of people vaping in Britain has nearly doubled in recent years.

Imperial College London said several studies had shown that there were short-term health risks from e-cigarettes, but said the long-term impact was still unknown and called for urgent research.

The report authors said it was likely that the side-effects of vaping would not be more damaging than smoking, but warned people were still taking ‘a bet’ by using e-cigarettes, particularly non-smokers whose numbers have more than doubled in the last two years.

Last year Public Health England urged Britain’s eight million smokers to start vaping after a government-backed report found that the electronic devices were 20 times less harmful than traditional cigarettes.

But the World Health Organisation and scientists from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and the University of Liverpool remain concerned about their safety.


Dr Filippos Filippidis, lead author of the research from the School of Public Health at Imperial said: “This research shows e-cigarettes are becoming very popular.

“However there is debate about the risks and benefits associated with e-cigarettes. For instance we don’t know whether we may start to see diseases emerge in 10-20 years’ time associated with some of the ingredients.

“We urgently need more research into the devices so that we can answer these questions.

“Not many countries have done what the UK has done and I would be a bit more cautious. On the other hand it might be a great opportunity for harm reduction and if you wait for the answers for the next five years millions of people might not have been helped. But I think it’s still a bet.”

The proportion of people in the UK who have tried an e-cigarette has increased from 8.9 per cent to 15.5 per cent between 2012 and 2014.

Most were smokers, but the number of non-smokers using electronic devices increased from 0.8 per cent to 2.1 per cent in the same period, meaning hundreds of thousands of Britons who might never have smoked have tried e-cigarettes.

“Although this data shows most of the people who use e-cigarettes are current or former smokers – which suggests the devices may be helping some of them quit smoking – it is worrying that some people who have never smoked are using them,” added Dr Filippidis.

“This raises the question of whether they could be a ‘gateway’ to smoking conventional cigarettes.

“There are quite a few studies that show e-cigarettes have some health risks in the short term and we don’t know about the long-term.

“There may be a health benefit if they help people stop smoking which is worth the side effects. But we just don’t know yet. We don’t know what will happen in 10 or 20 years.”

The research also showed the proportion of people across Europe who considered the devices dangerous had also nearly doubled, from 27 per cent to 51 per cent.

E-cigarettes work by delivering nicotine into the lungs in the form of a vapour. The devices contain nicotine in a solution of either propylene glycol or glycerine and water, and sometimes flavourings.

When a person sucks on the device, a sensor detects the air flow and heats the liquid inside the cartridge, causing it to evaporate.

The research, published in the journal Tobacco Control, used data from over 53,000 people across Europe and showed that France had the highest use of e-cigarettes – with one in five people saying they had tried the devices.

It also found that being in the age range 18-24, living in a town or city, and being more highly educated were linked to increased odds of ever having tried an e-cigarette.

June 2013
Electronic cigarettes ‘could be prescribed on NHS within nine months’
GPs will be able to prescribe e-cigarettes, which let users inhale a mist of nicotine instead of tobacco smoke, once they have been licensed by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).

Experts have calculated that millions of lives could be saved if all smokers switched to e-cigarettes because they do not contain harmful tar.
September 2013
E-cigarettes ‘are as good as nicotine patches’
One study of 657 smokers, published in The Lancet, found that e‑cigarettes worked as well as nicotine patches in helping people stop smoking within six months.

With an average quitting rate of about 6 per cent, neither method worked brilliantly, but e-cigarettes were also better at reducing conventional cigarette use among those who did not give up totally.
November 2013
EU seeks ban on all currently available e-cigarettes
All electronic cigarettes that are currently on sale in Britain would be banned and removed from the shop shelves under new European Union proposals.

Brussels officials fear that there is a “risk that electronic cigarettes can develop into a gateway to normal cigarettes”, according to the paper, and want to include the smoke-free alternative under a new EU “tobacco products directive” — despite the fact that they contain no tobacco.
January 2014
E-cigarettes to be banned for under-18s
Professor Dame Sally Davies, the government’s chief medical officer, said: “We do not yet know the harm that e-cigarettes can cause to adults let alone to children, but we do know they are not risk free.

“E-cigarettes can produce toxic chemicals and the amount of nicotine and other chemical constituents and contaminants, including vaporised flavourings, varies between products meaning they could be extremely damaging to young people’s health.”
April 2014
US introduces tougher regulation on e-cigarettes
Electronic cigarettes are to carry health warnings in the United States under new regulations announced by the Food and Drug Administration.

The restrictions will also ban the sale of e-cigarettes to children and require packaging to list their ingredients.
April 2014
Wales could ban e-cigarettes
Wales could be the first part of the UK to ban smoking e-cigarettes in enclosed public spaces.

Welsh health minister Professor Mark Drakeford said officials were considering a ban amid concerns the products could ‘‘re-normalise’’ the use of conventional cigarettes.

He said there were also concerns that their spread could undermine the ban on tobacco smoking in enclosed public spaces, making it more difficult to enforce.
May 2014
Study finds e-cigarettes 60% more effective than gum or patches
Study leader Professor Robert West, said: ‘‘E-cigarettes could substantially improve public health because of their widespread appeal and the huge health gains associated with stopping smoking.

“It would be perfectly reasonably for the NHS to consider e-cigarettes as an option.

“However, we should also recognise that the strongest evidence remains for use of the NHS stop-smoking services. These almost triple a smoker’s odds of successfully quitting compared with going it alone or relying on over-the-counter products.”
August 2014
E-cigarettes ‘should be banned indoors’
E-cigarettes should be banned indoors over fears that they can be as toxic to bystanders as normal cigarettes, the World Health Organisation has said.

Despite releasing vapour instead of smoke, the devices still pollute the air with harmful chemicals, health experts warned.
September 2014
E-cigarette ‘could lead to cocaine addiction’
E-cigarettes designed to help people quit smoking may act as a ‘‘gateway’’ to harmful illicit drugs, researchers have said.

Like conventional cigarettes, the devices are said to raise the risk of addiction to banned substances such as cannabis and cocaine.

Scientists pointed out that while eliminating many of the toxic compounds found in tobacco, e-cigarettes delivered highly addictive ‘‘pure nicotine’’
September 2014
E-cigarettes ‘could save thousands of lives’
A group of leading experts in tobacco controlled have critiqued a report by the WHO on e-cigarettes and said it contained errors and misrepresentations of the evidence.

It has been calculated that for every one million smokers who switch from cigarettes to electronic ones, which deliver nicotine but do not contain tobacco, then 6,000 premature deaths would be prevented every year.

It could mean more than 50,000 lives a year could be saved in England if every smoker switched.
September 2014
Study: E-cigarettes do not help people trying to give up
E-cigarettes do not appear to help cancer patients to give up smoking, new research suggests.

A study of cancer patients who tried to quit smoking found those using the products were likely to have more failed attempts than those who did not use them.

The findings, published online by the journal Cancer, raise doubts about the potential benefits of e-cigarettes for helping people to give up smoking.
November 2014
E-cigarettes need safety warning, say fire chiefs
Safety messages should be displayed on electronic cigarette kits following a surge of incidents linked to the devices, fire authorities have said.

Figures provided following a freedom of information request disclosed that e-cigarettes and their related equipment, including chargers, were involved in more than 100 fires in less than two years.
March 2015
Teenagers putting their health at risk by trying e-cigarettes, experts claim
A survey of 14 to 17-year-olds in the north west of England found that one in five had acquired e-cigarettes even though the government is bringing forward laws to ban their sale to under 18s.

And worryingly, nearly 40 per cent of those teenagers had never smoked, or had tried smoking but did not like the sensation.

Although e-cigarettes are safer than smoking, health experts have warned about the long term health implications of regularly inhaling nicotine. Previous studies have shown that nicotine can cause brain damage when brains are still growing.
August 2015
British smokers urged to start vaping by health officials
So far no electronic cigarette has been licensed by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) or the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice).

But a report launched this month by Public Health England, Kings College London and Queen Mary London, found e-cigarettes carry just five per cent of the risk of tobacco and should be widely adopted by smokers.
September 2015
E-cigarettes recommended by industry-funded scientists
Health experts from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and the University of Liverpool claim evidence used in last month’s Public Health England report was flawed, based on inconclusive evidence which was tainted by vested interests.

A recent editorial in the respected medical journal The Lancet revealed that three of the 11 authors of the original study were paid advisors for the e-cigarette industry. The editors of the journal European Addiction Research even issued a warning alongside the article saying there was a ‘potential conflict of interest.’

But PHE failed to declare the warning when they presented findings to journalists at a briefing in London last week.
December 2015
Vaping ‘no safer than smoking’
Researchers at the University of California created an extract from the ‘smoke’ of e-cigarettes and used it to treat human cells in a lab.

“Based on the evidence to date I believe they are no better than smoking regular cigarettes,” said Dr Jessica Wang-Rodriquez, professor of pathology at the University of California, San Diego, and one of the lead researchers on the new study.

“Our study strongly suggests that electronic cigarettes are not as safe as their marketing makes them appear to the public.”
December 2015
E-cigarette flavouring chemical is linked to ‘popcorn lung’
Vapers could be at risk of developing the deadly disease ‘popcorn lung’ after scientists found a toxic chemical in 75 per cent of flavoured electronic cigarettes.

Diacetyl, a chemical which is used as a butter substitute in flavours like Cotton Candy and Cupcake, has been linked to respiratory disease bronchiolitis obliterans

Although it is thought to be safe when eaten, the United States National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health has said it could be hazardous when inhaled over a long period.
January 2016
E-cigarettes win first approval as a ‘medicine’
The Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has awarded a licence to British American Tobacco for its e-Voke device that will allow it to be marketed as a smoking cessation aid.
March 2016
Wales could ban e-cigarettes
E-cigarettes could be banned in public places where children are present in a landmark vote in the Welsh Assembly.

If passed, the Bill would become a UK first and would restrict the use of nicotine inhaling devices in certain public places – such as schools, places where food is served and on public transport.
April 2016
Doctors body promotes e-cigarettes as healthier alternative to smoking
The Royal College of Physicians publishes a report acknowledging the need for industry regulation but saying that rules should not be allowed to significantly inhibit the development and use of harm-reduction products, such as e-cigarettes.

The RCP said the long-term negative effects from vaping were ‘unlikely to exceed 5% of the harm from smoking tobacco’.

Two-year trends and predictors of e-cigarette use in 27 European Union member states

Download (PDF, 252KB)