RCPI Policy Group on Tobacco welcomes the Health Research Board’s new findings in relation to e-cigarettes

RCPI Policy Group on Tobacco welcomes the Health Research Board’s new findings in relation to e-cigarettes

The Royal College of Physicians of Ireland’s Policy Group on Tobacco today expressed support for the latest comprehensive review from the Health Research Board into e-cigarette use.

A Health Research Board (HRB) review into e-cigarette use has found that e-cigarettes are associated with adolescents starting to smoke tobacco cigarettes, which could potentially lead to serious harm. It shows that those adolescents who had ever smoked an e-cigarette were between three and five times more likely to start smoking compared to those who never smoked e-cigarettes.

Prof Des Cox, Chair of the RCPI Policy Group on Tobacco said,

“These findings have important public health ramifications and do not support recommending e-cigarettes as a smoking cessation tool. We recommend that people use nicotine replacement therapies and/or medications prescribed by their GP instead of e-cigarettes when trying to quit smoking.

He continued, “We are concerned about the finding of adolescents who use e-cigarettes being at increased risk of starting tobacco smoking. It is still legal for minors to purchase e-cigarettes in Ireland. Our group is calling for the introduction into legislation of the Tobacco Products Bill that was promised by the previous government. We are calling on the government to introduce a ban on all flavourings in e-cigarette liquids available for purchase in Ireland with the exception of tobacco flavoured e-liquid in order to protect children from e-cigarettes. We are also calling for increased regulation and taxation on e-cigarettes moving forward into the future.”

He continued, “The findings also show that when it comes to stopping smoking e-cigarettes are no more effective than nicotine replacements therapies, and because e-cigarettes aren’t regulated their safety is not yet known. What we do know is that worryingly they can cause burns, injuries and lung damage.”

He added, “The RCPI Policy Group on Tobacco would strongly encourage that these findings and the dangers they outline are considered in the creation of any future Government policy in relation to e-cigarettes. We have consistently outlined our concerns about their use, particularly amongst young people.”

Key findings reported by the HRB include:

  • E-cigarettes are no more effective than approved and regulated nicotine replacement therapies (NRTs) to stop people smoking. However, e-cigarettes are not regulated or approved and their safety beyond 12 months is not yet known
  • Adolescents who use e-cigarettes are three to five times more likely to start smoking tobacco compared to those who never smoked e-cigarettes
  • E-cigarettes acute effects include poisonings, burns, blast injuries, lung injury and asthmatic attacks. Some of the chemicals in e-cigarettes are thought to cause tissue and cell damage and some are agents that may cause cancer in the long-term. The long-term effects beyond 24 months are still not known
  • Dual use of both e-cigarettes and conventional tobacco cigarettes wasn’t less harmful than smoking tobacco cigarettes alone, which raises questions about the smoking reduction benefit of e-cigarettes.

The HRB conducted this review to help inform the Department of Health’s policy position in relation to e-cigarettes; in particular with regard to e-cigarettes as part of a harm reduction strategy in relation to tobacco.

Editor’s notes

For media queries please contact Louise Finn at the details below. 

The three reports which were used to inform this overall evidence review of E-cigarettes are available on request from the HRB. For more information on this research click here. 

The RCPI Policy Group on Tobacco was established in 2014 and is chaired by Prof Des Cox, Consultant in Paediatric Respiratory Medicine at Children’s Health Ireland, Crumlin. Members of the RCPI Policy Group on Tobacco are doctors working in the Irish health system, many of whom treat patients with serious cardiovascular and respiratory diseases and cancers caused by smoking. From 2020, the Policy Group on Tobacco and the Institute of Public Health (IPH) have entered a collaboration to increase the impact of research and advocacy in the area of tobacco use for both the IPH and the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland.

Louise Finn

Communications Executive

Tel: +353 86 796 5186

For general press enquiries contact Louise in our Communications Department.