E Cigarettes: Facts & Fiction

Who wrote this?

Robert West & Jamie Brown


Robert West, Professor of Health Psychology, Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, University College London, London.

Jamie Brown, Post-doctoral research fellow, Department of Epidemiology and Public Health and Department of Clinical Educational and Health Psychology, University College London, London.

Where was it published?

For all of our local GPs to read: in the British Journal of General Practice.

Why did they write the article?

They wanted to put over the evidence to GPs as;

“there are a number of public health advocates who appear to consider electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) primarily as a threat to public health, and bodies such as the British Medical Association (BMA) and the World Health Organization (WHO) are warning smokers about their potential dangers.”

If I wanted to recommend the article to my GP where would they find it?

It is still available online here so you can print it off and hand them a copy, PDF is also available at the end of this article.

It covers the following points:

Electronic cigarettes

  • They point out that e-cigs let people have the experience of smoking while not smoking.
  • It is pointed out that there is no tar or carbon monoxide when vaping.
  • The article describes how vaping devices come in a range of appearances.

The safety

  • They acknowledge that the long time between the introduction of cigarettes and the link to cancer is bound to make people worried.
  • They say there might never be an answer, as technology develops so might potential risks.

So how can someone make a decision?

Based, according to West and Brown, on the toxicology (how poisonous) of the vapour.Toxins are well below that of a tobacco cigarette

How has vaping effected smoking?

The ASH UK study into smoking habits is quoted as it found that an increase in vaping has paralleled a continued decrease in smoking.

But won’t it attract children?

According to the ASH figures:

  • Vaping has not led to more youths smoking or finding it socially acceptable.
  • Smoking rates for 16-25 year olds has remained static.

Do e-cigarettes help people to quit?

The writers are honest that there are mixed studies on this matter and more research is needed. At worst, e-cigs perform as well as licensed form of nicotine replacement therapies but

“the latest study, involving almost 6000 respondents, found that use of an e-cigarette in the most recent quit attempt was associated with a 60% increase in the odds of still being abstinent compared with using no aid and with using a licensed nicotine product bought over the counter.”

600 lives could be saved for every million adults that swich to cigs

Are electronic cigarettes a gateway to smoking?

West points out that this is not similar to people trying soft drugs before moving to harder ones.

The writers also point out that all the studies to date have looked at whether youths have tried vaping, not whether they have taken to it full time. The figure in England for people who have not previously smoked and have taken up vaping has remained at a very low 0.2% over the last couple of years.

What are they asking GPs to do?

They want GPs to be objective and not listen to the lies from people who are either opposed to people taking nicotine at all or have a money-based interest in seeing electronic cigarettes fail.

They want doctors to judge vaping on the research, the evidence and facts – not gut feelings or a long held distrust of the smoking industry.


PDF file – Electronic Cigarettes – Facts & Fiction

Prof Robert West

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