Skip to main content

Update on e-cigarettes


A new report released on 28th April 2016 by the Royal College of Physicians, concludes that e-cigarettes are likely to be beneficial to UK public health and should be promoted as a substitute for smoking.

It argues that smokers can be reassured and encouraged to use them, and the public can be reassured that e-cigarettes are much safer than smoking.

Since e-cigarettes became available in the UK in 2007, their use has been surrounded by medical and public controversy.  This new 200-page report examines the science, public policy, regulation and ethics surrounding e-cigarettes and other non-tobacco sources of nicotine, and addresses these controversies and misunderstandings with conclusions based on the latest available evidence.

The report concludes: 

  • E-cigarettes are not a gateway to smoking – in the UK, use of e-cigarettes is limited almost entirely to those who are already using, or have used, tobacco
  • E-cigarettes do not result in normalisation of smoking – there is no evidence that either nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) or e-cigarette use has resulted in renormalisation of smoking.
  • E-cigarettes and quitting smoking - among smokers, e-cigarette use is likely to lead to quit attempts that would not otherwise have happened, and in a proportion of these to successful cessation.
  • E-cigarettes and long-term harm - the possibility of some harm from long-term e-cigarette use cannot be dismissed due to inhalation of the ingredients other than nicotine, but is likely to be very small, and substantially smaller than that arising from tobacco smoking. 

New restrictions on the sale of e-cigarettes are to be introduced on 20 May 2016 by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Authority.  To date, e-cigarettes have been regulated in the UK as general consumer products, with additional restrictions on advertising and minimum age of sale, but an EU Tobacco Products Directive will introduce new rules for nicotine-containing e-cigarettes and refill containers. 

The new rules will ensure:

  • Minimum standards for the safety and quality of all e-cigarettes and refill containers
  • That information will be provided to consumers so that they can make informed choices
  • An environment that protects children from starting to use these products

Action points:

  • PCRS-UK has brought this report to the attention of members for information only.  Read our position on e-cigarettes HERE:
  • Further information on e-cigarettes is available in our smoking cessation resources HERE 
  • Access the RCP report Nicotine without smoke: tobacco harm reductionHERE 


The PCRS-UK does not guarantee, and accepts no legal liability for, the accuracy, reliability, currency or completeness of any archived material or linked website.  This is an archived resource/news item