New reports on e-cigarettes show risk to young users

By: Professor Mike Daube AO, Professor Michael Moore AM
20 February, 2018

A new comprehensive report released by the US NASEM, 'Public Health Consequences of E-Cigarettes' included a number of findings which further validate calls by the PHAA and other health groups for a precautionary approach to their regulation.

The report outlined substantial evidence showing that e-cigarette use increases the risk of using conventional cigarettes among youth and young adults. It also found that little is known about the long-term health effects of e-cigarette use, and the evidence that e-cigarettes may be effective in promoting smoking cessation is limited. Two important studies since released on the association between e-cigarette use and smoking cessation both found that e-cigarette use was less likely to lead to quitting smoking. One of these studies was conducted on a nationally representative sample of adults in France, and the other was a cross-sectional study covering 28 European Union countries, with conclusions suggesting that “e-cigarettes are associated with inhibiting rather than assisting in smoking cessation".

These reports contrast with a recently released report by Public Health England, updating its 2015 report, which while calling for more research concluded that E-cigarettes do not appear to be undermining the long-term decline in cigarette smoking in the UK among young people, adult smokers are poorly informed about the relative risks of different products, and the evidence suggests that smoking E-cigarettes has contributed to smoking cessation in the UK.

The PHAA view is that the NASEM report is much more comprehensive and authoritative. Therefore, that the cautionary position taken by WHO, NHMRC, TGA and Australia’s Health Ministers remains appropriate and has been further confirmed by recent evidence. In the words of a paediatrician quoted this week in the New York Times, “We are still learning new things about vaping, none of which are reassuring”. View the PHAA e-cigarette position statement.

Meanwhile, however, PHAA welcomes the Australian Government’s recent announcement of additional funding for the Tackling Indigenous Smoking program, and calls on Australian governments at all levels to implement further evidence-based action to reduce smoking, such as taxation, media campaigns and product regulation, including bans on flavours such as menthol and gimmicks that are likely to be attractive to children and young people.