The growth in use of electronic cigarettes in Scotland has caused controversy, with health campaigners and clinicians calling for them to be treated as tobacco products and banned from use in public places, including NHS premises and grounds.
Yet e-cigarettes are not tobacco, as your leader comment (30 July) points out. All the available evidence suggests that the use of these devices – while not “risk free” – is far safer than continued smoking.
In addition, there is little or no evidence of harm to others from e-cigarette vapour. Policies to ban their use in public places are not based on evidence but instead on (as yet unproven) fears that these devices will “renormalise” tobacco smoking.
Scotland led the UK in introducing a smoke-free law in 2006 built on sound research about the risks of second-hand smoke. Bans on e-cigarettes have no such foundation.
Scotland has set an ambitious target to reduce tobacco smoking rates to 5 per cent by 2034. Getting there will be a challenge, and banning the use of e-cigarettes in public places is likely to hinder rather than help us.
Professor of health policy, University of Stirling
UK Centre for Tobacco and Alcohol Studies