MPs back call to relax rules around smoking e-cigarettes in public

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Vaping is much less harmful than normal cigarettes and e-cigarettes should be made available on prescription to help more people quit smoking, it said.

The report, by the science and technology MPs' committee, says they were too often overlooked by the NHS as a tool to help people stop smoking.

"The committee believes that the risk for smokers of continuing to use conventional cigarettes is greater than the uncertainty over the long-term use of e-cigarettes", the report concludes.

It suggested that they no longer be treated in the same way.

E-cigarettes, the report said, present an opportunity to "significantly accelerate already declining smoking rates".

Simon Capewell, professor in public health and policy at Liverpool University said: 'The committee has concentrated exclusively on "experts" who are e-cig champions.

Public Health England (PHE) has estimated that e-cigarettes are at least 95% less harmful than smoking.

The report comes as part of an inquiry into e-cigarettes by the Science and Technology Committee, which is examining the impact of electronic cigarettes on human health. They accused the MPs of largely taking evidence from researchers who had published studies positive to e-cigarettes and of ignoring evidence highlighting health risks.

Former health minister Norman Lamb - the committee chairman - wants the Government to consider allowing more freedom to advertise e-cigarettes.

Committee chair Norman Lamb said: "E-cigarettes are less harmful than conventional cigarettes, but current policy and regulations do not sufficiently reflect this and businesses, transport providers and public places should stop viewing conventional and e-cigarettes as one and the same".

Martin McKee, professor of European public health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, added: 'It is simply impossible to know how safe a product is when it has only been used widely for a relatively short time'.

The University of Birmingham has done research which found the vapourised e-liquid fluid in e-cigarettes has a similar effect on the lungs and body that is seen in regular cigarette smokers and patients with chronic lung disease.

The government says it will consider the committee's recommendations.

A rethink on limits on refill strengths and tank sizes.

The MPs urged that a tobacco product called "snus" - which is taken in the mouth - is made legal in the United Kingdom, despite the fact it has previously been linked to oral cancer.

Meanwhile, NHS England's "default" policy should be that e-cigarettes are permitted on mental health units, to address the "stubbornly high" levels of smoking among people with mental health conditions, the report said.

A study here this week, for example, found that e-cigarette vapour may cause adverse changes in lung cells.

The group also said that there is no evidence to suggest that it encourages young people to take up smoking tobacco.

There are 9 million smokers in the UK.

"Apart from the nicotine, the contents of the e-cigarettes are all natural".

Duncan Selbie, chief executive of PHE told the BBC: "E-cigarettes are not without harm but are way safer than the harms of tobacco".

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