Cancer Research UK, a leading cancer charity funded by the public, in its new report, has focused attention on issues concerning the efficacy and safety of electronic cigarettes also called e-cigarettes.
It identifies the necessity of addressing controls over tobacco, individual, philosophical and political concerns and also the vital concerns about effectiveness and safety.
Researchers attached to the University of Stirling took up significant issues for debate, in a synopsis of the report which was published in Tobacco Control. These include the marketing of the product, whether electronic cigarettes would result in the redundancy of laws against smoking and the role played by the tobacco industry. They pose the question of ethics in promotion of a product that contains nicotine and can cause addiction. The answers to all these questions must be provided by the regulators after adequate research.
Electronic cigarettes generate a nicotine laced vapour which the user inhales instead of smoke. As users avoid the health hazards of inhaling tobacco smoke, the e-cigarettes are considered a safer alternative. The product is itself relatively new with the majority of them having been introduced into the market during the immediately preceding five years. Though research on the product is relatively limited, there is evidence emerging which shows that e-cigarettes are being used by smokers as a means to reduce or altogether quit smoking tobacco cigarettes.
However, there have been few studies and research to determine the safety aspect of electronic cigarettes. The laws as they stand are largely insufficient to regulate and control the product and its use as well as the manner in which it is marketed.
Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) is considering the need for regulation of electronic cigarettes with a decision expected in the near future. The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) is also due to issue its report on products which can reduce the harm caused by tobacco use.
According to Dr Marisa de Andrade from the Institute of Social Marketing (ISM), there are many concerns which need to be addressed and the present report is the first step to decide on a common agenda for research aimed at control of tobacco use and community public health in the United Kingdom.
A report author with ISM, Professor Gerard Hastings points out the importance of all stakeholders in the movement for tobacco control agreeing on a common strategy to combat the new developments. He is apprehensive that any disagreements within the movement will be fully exploited by opponents to derail their efforts.
Sarah Woolnough, executive director, policy and information at Cancer Research UK states that while there is positive evidence which suggests that some smokers have been able to reduce their tobacco use and others have succeeded in quitting the tobacco habit, there is still a great need to get a good grasp on the contents of the product, the uses to which they are put, and the modes of marketing the products. The report serves to guide research to tackle issues that are relevant.
So are e cigs safe? She is of the opinion that regulation of electronic cigarettes will ensure that safety standards are met, doses are standardised and that the product will not be promoted among non smokers, particularly the youth.