The BMA wants e-cigarette smoking to be banned indoors to avoid undermining existing public non-smoking policies and until side effects are sufficiently mapped.
The doctors’ union has backed international calls, made in a report from the World Health Organisation (WHO) earlier this week, for the nicotine replacement therapy product to be treated equally to tobacco cigarettes when it comes to smoking in public places.
The WHO report recommended that all indoor use is banned until there is evidence about a potential harmful impact of nicotine vapours on bystanders and also expressed concern about the potential undermining of anti-smoking policies in countries where indoor cigarette smoking is banned.
BMA board of science deputy chair Ram Moorthy said the WHO report was ‘encouraging’, adding: ‘Tighter controls are needed to ensure their use does not undermine current tobacco control measures and reinforces the normalcy of smoking behaviour.’
‘There is a need for research to understand the health impacts of e-cigarettes on both the user and bystanders, and it is vital that the sale of e-cigarettes is appropriately regulated to ensure they are not sold to minors, and are not aggressively marketed to young people as tobacco was in the past.’
‘Any health claims must be substantiated by robust independent scientific evidence to ensure that the consumer is fully informed regarding potential benefits and risks of e-cigarettes.’
The WHO released its report ahead of important international discussions over the regulation of e-cigarettes due to take place at WHO’s Conference of the Parties to the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control in Moscow in October.
It comes as a number of leading academics and public health experts had called on the WHO to refrain from taking a stance for reducing the use of e-cigarettes earlier this year. Their sentiments were backed up by MP Dr Sarah Wollaston, a former GP and the chair of the House of Commons Health Committee, who said she would like doctors to be able to recommend e-cigarettes for quitting smoking.
Early research has suggested e-cigarettes is 60% more likely to be effective in helping smokers quit than other traditional nicotine replacement products.