Doubt cast on safety of e-cigarettes
Australia’s peak medical research group says there is not enough proof that e-cigarettes are safe or help smokers quit.
A new position statement by the National Health and Medical Research Council has found insufficient evidence e-cigarettes are a safe alternative to tobacco and calls for more research to fully assess their risks and effectiveness.
In the meantime, health authorities should take action to minimise the potential harm from e-cigarettes, it said.
The NHMRC said that though some chemicals in e-liquid were used in food production and generally considered safe when eaten, this did not mean the chemicals were safe when inhaled as a vapour directly into the lungs.
“Labelling of e-cigarettes and e-liquids has also been found to be inaccurate, with tests revealing that some products labelled as nicotine-free actually contain nicotine, ” it said.
“Some argue that e-cigarettes have the potential to reduce the number of smoking-related diseases and deaths by assisting smokers to quit or by providing a safer alternative to tobacco cigarettes.
“However, some experts have raised concerns that e-cigarettes are promoted as a safer option for smokers when their long-term health effects are unknown.”
The NHMRC said health experts were also worried that potential benefits to smokers were outweighed by the risks posed by widespread e-cigarette use.
This included the possibility they could make smoking socially acceptable again, though evidence of this was limited.
Cancer Council WA director of education and research Terry Slevin said the NHMRC was wise to be cautious on the issue and its advice matched that of the cancer group.
“Until we have clear evidence of benefit and confirmation they are safe, we recommend against people using e-cigarettes, ” he said.
“Meanwhile, we remain concerned the tobacco industry is getting into the e-cigarette business as a means of keeping people addicted to nicotine.”
Australian Council on Smoking and Health president Mike Daube said the more experts discovered about e-cigarettes, the more there was cause for caution.
© The West Australian