Director of RPS in Scotland calls for e-cigarette evidence review

Alex MacKinnon, director of RPS Scotland

The director of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society in Scotland, Alex MacKinnon, has called for a review of the evidence on e-cigarettes and for improved quality control of e-cigarettes.

MacKinnon was speaking after the Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) in the United States launched a campaign to stop young people using all forms of nicotine, including e-cigarettes, citing concerns about the impact of nicotine on the developing brain.

“The FDA has a multi-pronged effort to protect kids from using any nicotine-containing product, including e-cigarettes,” said Mitch Zeller, director of the FDA’s Center for Tobacco Products. “As we continue to learn more about these products and their relationship to youth, the agency will be better prepared to help address the issue of youth use through science-based educational efforts and regulatory policies that will ultimately pay the greatest dividends in reducing tobacco-related disease and death.” 

MacKinnon said the RPS’s current policy on e-cigarettes, which opposes their ‘normalisation’ and calls for more longer-term research, was being reviewed. “We are still concerned that while e-cigarettes look as if they have a role in harm reduction, vaping can still lead to physiological addiction to nicotine and psychological addiction to vaping,” he said. He added that there were aspects of e-cigarettes that might be particularly attractive to young people.

But Martin Dockrell, tobacco control lead from Public Health England, said that data from a number of national surveys in the UK had shown no evidence that e-cigarettes were acting as a route into smoking for young people.

He said: “We monitor closely the UK data on young people’s use of e-cigarettes, alongside the data on smoking. It is fairly common for young people to experiment with e-cigarettes, but regular use is rare and [occurs] almost entirely among current and ex-smokers.”

Action on Smoking and Health policy director Hazel Cheeseman said: “For the UK, the evidence that we have is very clear that we do not have a large number of young people regularly using e-cigarettes. I would not see this as a priority in the UK. The need just does not seem to be there in the UK.

“The evidence we have to date shows that e-cigarettes are very much less harmful than smoking and there is growing evidence they are helpful in getting people to quit smoking.”

She agreed that ‘rewiring’ of brains through exposure to nicotine could be a theoretical risk but she believed that in the real world there were not many young people taking up vaping who had not smoked first.

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Citation
The Pharmaceutical Journal, PJ, August 2017, Vol 299, 7904;299(7904):DOI:10.1211/PJ.2017.20203404