Allowing e-cigarettes to compete with regular cigarettes might reduce deaths and illness caused by tobacco, a new study concludes. The researchers reviewed 81 previous studies on the use and safety of e-cigarettes, HealthDay reports.
The researchers note that although the long-term health effects of e-cigarette use are unknown, compared with conventional cigarettes they are likely to be much less harmful to users or bystanders. Regulating e-cigarettes “as strictly as cigarettes, or even more strictly as some regulators propose, is not warranted on current evidence,” the researchers write in the journal Addiction.
Researcher Dr. Hayden McRobbie of Queen Mary University of London told HealthDay, “Use of e-cigarettes by people who don’t smoke is very rare.” He added there is no evidence to support arguments that e-cigarettes are a gateway to smoking tobacco.
“There is evidence that e-cigarettes enable some users to quit smoking or reduce their consumption,” he said. “If there is evidence that e-cigarettes reduce smoking-related harm, then they need to be easily obtainable and not regulated more strongly than tobacco products.”
Earlier this month, a group of leading lung health organizations urged governments to ban or limit the use of e-cigarettes until more is known about the devices’ health effects. The Forum of International Respiratory Societies, which includes more than 70,000 members worldwide, said in a position statement, “Since electronic cigarettes generate less tar and carcinogens than combustible cigarettes, using electronic cigarettes may reduce disease caused by those components. However, the health risks of electronic cigarettes have not been adequately studied. Studies looking at whether electronic cigarettes can aid smoking cessation have had inconsistent results.”
The American Medical Association recently called for reining in the sale and marketing practices of companies that make e-cigarettes.