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MPs launch inquiry into e-cigarettes

Inquiry will look at whether e-cigarettes are ‘renormalising’ smoking and their impact on health

Ingrid Torjesen

Wednesday, 25 October 2017

A cross party group of MPs has launched an inquiry which will examine the impact of electronic cigarettes on human health (including their effectiveness as a stop-smoking tool), the suitability of regulations guiding their use, and the financial implications of a growing market on both business and the NHS.

New rules for nicotine-containing electronic cigarettes and refill containers were introduced in May 2016 by the Tobacco and Related Products Regulations 2016, which implements the EU Tobacco Products Directive.

The government’s Tobacco Control Plan, published in July, said that the Department of Health would be monitoring the impact of e-cigarette regulations, while Public Health England would continue to provide evidence-based guidance on what is known, and unknown, about the risks of e-cigarettes relative to smoking.

While the prevalence of conventional smoking has fallen to 16% among adults, with 7.6 million smokers in 2016, the use of e-cigarettes has risen fourfold from 0.7 million in 2012 to an estimated 2.9 million in 2016.

Norman Lamb MP, chair, of the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee, which is carrying out the inquiry, said: "Almost 3 million people in the UK now use e-cigarettes, but there are still significant gaps in the research guiding their regulation and sale. They are seen by some as valuable tools that will reduce the number of people smoking ‘conventional’ cigarettes, and seen by others as ‘re-normalising’ smoking for the younger generation.

"We want to understand where the gaps are in the evidence base, the impact of the regulations, and the implications of this growing industry on NHS costs and the UK's public finances."

Written evidence to the inquiry on the health, regulatory and financial implications of e-cigarettes should be submitted by Friday 8 December 2017.

The Committee would also like to hear views on whether government policy and regulation has kept up with the full range of ‘smoking’ and novel tobacco products (such as ‘heat not burn’) that are becoming available to the public, and if it takes account of their likely impact on human health.

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