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E-cigarettes shouldn’t be used, researcher claims

E-cigarettes shouldn’t be used as a stop smoking tool because there is not enough evidence to prove they are safe, a researcher has claimed.

Dr Stuart Flint, a psychologist at Leeds Beckett University, believes it is premature to call the trendy gadgets a ‘healthier alternative’ to traditional cigarettes.

In a strongly worded letter published in a prestigious journal, he urgently called for more studies delving into their supposed health benefits. 

Dr Flint branded health organisations ‘irresponsible and unethical’ for promoting the gadgets as a cessation tool – their original purpose.

He wrote: ‘We need to understand more about the potential health effects of e-cigarettes before they’re used as an alternative for stopping smoking.

Dr Stuart Flint, a psychologist at Leeds Beckett University, believes it is premature to call the trendy gadgets a ‘healthier alternative’ to traditional cigarettes (stock)

‘There is, at best, very low low-quality evidence of e-cigarettes promoting smoking cessation or reduction, and insufficient data for confident estimation.

‘Offering e-cigarettes as an alternative to normal cigarettes, alongside evidence-based medicinal products, such as nicotine patches, is premature.

‘Preliminary evidence even suggests e-cigarette use may actually have a harmful effect in relevant patient groups.’

Dr Flint added that it is ‘irresponsible, unethical and potentially harmful for health organisations to promote’ e-cigarettes without the evidence. 

His letter, titled ‘The irresponsible promotion of e-cigarettes and Swaptober’, was published in The Lancet Respiratory Medicine.

The dangers of e-cigarettes

It follows two recent worrying studies which linked the gadgets, often used to help smokers quit, to heart disease – the world’s leading killer. 

Around three million Britons and some 10 million in the US use e-cigarettes, battery-powered devices containing nicotine. 

The smokeless devices do not produce tar and carbon monoxide – the nasty toxins found in tobacco cigarettes. 


Fresh concerns have been raised about e-cigarettes after research in November found the devices may slow down your heart rate.

Aerosols found in the trendy gadgets led to bradycardia – which can be life-threatening and trigger a cardiac arrest – in mice, scientists discovered.

The damage was similar to that of traditional cigarettes, which scientists have tried to coax the public out of smoking for decades.

The findings, made by researchers at the University of Louisville in Kentucky, are the latest to delve into the dangers of e-cigarettes.

The study, which exposed mice to e-cigarettes and tobacco products, back up repeated claims that it can lead to heart disease.

Researchers said their evidence suggest the use of e-cigarettes ‘may increase risks of arrhythmia and overall cardiovascular disease’. 

Although thought to be considerably safer than traditional cigarettes, studies have linked long-term use to heart disease and cancer.

Dr Flint slammed the conflicting advice given by health officials in the UK which could ‘confuse’ those looking to give up smoking. 

Conflicting advice 

Nice, the drug’s rationing watchdog, has told GPs not to recommend e-cigarettes because there is limited evidence over their safety.

Guidelines it circulated to family doctors in September instructed them to offer patients nicotine patches and counselling instead.

However, Public Health England on the same day paid for 30-second television adverts to urge smokers to switch to e-cigarettes. 

The short clips formed part of the Government’s annual ‘Stoptober’ campaign to encourage those with the notoriously bad habit to quit.

Dr Flint wrote: ‘The contradictory stance of the UK’s expert health organisations is likely to confuse public understanding.’ 

Smoking: The facts 

Smoking kills seven million people across the world each year and is considered to be the leading cause of preventable death.

The notoriously bad habit, which is known to cause heart disease and lung cancer, ‘threatens us all’, experts have insisted in recent years. 

Cigarette smoke contains more than 4,000 chemicals, including 43 known cancer-causing (carcinogenic) compounds and 400 other toxins.

These include nicotine, tar, and carbon monoxide, as well as formaldehyde, ammonia, hydrogen cyanide and arsenic.