Professor Gillian Leng, pictured, said there are still doubts over the long-term health effects of e-cigarettes
E-cigarettes are being sold as ‘edgy lifestyle devices’, which could keep people on them for too long, a senior health official warned yesterday.
Professor Gillian Leng, deputy chief executive of health watchdog NICE, said there are still doubts over the long-term health effects of electronic cigarettes.
While they can help smokers quit tobacco, there is a question over whether they may become a ‘lifestyle choice’.
Nearly 3million people in Britain use e-cigarettes, despite evidence linking them to bronchitis and stillbirth in pregnant women, and fears over toxic flavourings. There are also concerns over the dangers of ‘passive vaping’.
Addressing the science and technology parliamentary committee, Professor Leng said the long-term impact of using e-cigarettes is not yet known because they are relatively new.
Asked whether getting people on to the devices may maintain an addiction to nicotine, she said: ‘That is the distinction between using e-cigarettes as a quitting aid, which you clearly can do. You downgrade the amount of nicotine you get through the product and it can help stop your nicotine addiction.
‘The question is whether it becomes a long-term lifestyle choice and there might be questions about that because of the way e-cigarettes are marketed. They are being marketed as an exciting, edgy product, which might encourage people to use them in the longer term.’
In March NICE suggested doctors should advise patients that e-cigarettes are better for them than smoking, but stopped short of recommending their use in stop-smoking services.
Professor Leng said yesterday: ‘We know they are substantially safer than cigarettes. The risk is that we don’t know the long-term impact. They are 95 per cent safer than cigarettes but there is five per cent that we don’t know about.’
Prof Leng said e-cigarettes are 95 per cent safer than traditional tobacco products, but there has not been enough study about their long-term impact
E-cigarettes do not contain the dozens of cancer-causing toxins in tobacco, but do contain dangerous chemicals such as formaldehyde, as well as nicotine. Studies have linked long-term vaping to heart disease and cancer.
Professor John Newton, of Public Health England, said there were ‘reassuring patterns’ of e-cigarette use. ‘Surveys suggest there is a progression from being a smoker, to using e-cigarettes, to stopping,’ he said.