Everything you need to know about e-cigarettes

Ease the laws around e-cigarettes to increase the rate at which people stop smoking - that's the call for action from MPs on the Science and Technology Committee (STC).

In a new report they have asked for vaping to be differentiated from conventional smoking.

  • So, what exactly does the report say?

In summary the report has called for:

- Freedom to advertise e-cigarettes as the relatively less harmful option.

- A wider debate about how e-cigarettes are treated in public spaces.

- Reconsideration around the limits on refill strengths and tank sizes.

- E-cigarettes to be considered as part of stop smoking therapies.

- An easing of tax duties on e-cigarettes in order to reflect relative health benefits.

- NHS mental health facilities to allow patients to use e-cigarettes.

- An end to the ban on “snus”, an oral tobacco product.

- Support for a long-term independent research programme.

  • What are the current laws around vaping?

Major airports have banned vaping on its premises. Credit: PA

Vaping is currently allowed in public spaces at the discretion of the property owner.

However, transport and sports stadiums have been more stringent in their approach.

Transport for London, Network rail and most major UK airlines and airpots have banned vaping, except for in designated smoking areas.

In 2016, the policy around advertising e-cigarettes was updated stating "e-cigarettes and re-fill containers can’t be advertised or promoted, directly or indirectly" on TV, radio and certain print publications.

A year later the actual device also became the subject of strict regulation including a focus on tank size and nicotine strength.

The requirements restrict e-cigarette tanks to a capacity of no more than 2ml and e-liquids to a nicotine strength of no more than 20mg/ml.

MPs have highlighted a review of these restrictions arguing that it could put heavy smokers off using the devices as an alternative to conventional cigarettes.

  • So, what is the evidence around e-cigarettes?

Norman Lamb, Chair of the Science and Technology Committee. Credit: PA

Norman Lamb, Chair of the Science and Technology Committee, has said "e-cigarettes are a proven stop smoking tool."

A landmark review, published by Public Health England (PHE) in 2015, said vaping is 95% less harmful than smoking tobacco.

At the time however, the research was criticised by experts who said its findings were based on poor quality evidence.

They also pointed to links between some experts, the tobacco industry and firms that manufacture e-cigarettes.

Another literature review published by PHE showed that in "the first half of 2017, quit success rates in England were at their highest rates so far observed and for the first time."

Experts say more research is need to identify how much of this is owed to e-cigarettes alone.

However, according to NHS choices, "in the year up to April 2015, two out of three people who used e-cigarettes in combination with the NHS stop smoking service quit smoking successfully.

  • What about the stories around the negative effects of e-cigarettes?

Researchers agree that more study is needed on the long-term health impacts of e-cigarettes. Credit: PA

There have been a range of studies highlighting negative health effects of e-cigarettes.

However, the overall conclusions from these reports have been called into question because of small sample sizes.

The most recent report, published in the journal Thorax, linked e-cigarettes to damage of the immune system was reported widely.

However, its findings were based on a small experimental lab-based study.

Lead author Prof David Thickett cautioned that more research was needed to fully assess the long-term affect health impact.