E-cigarette use falls for the first time as MPs launch inquiry into whether use of the devices should be restricted
- Inquiry is set to follow studies linking e-cigarettes with cancer and infertility
- House of Commons science will take evidence on how they affect human health
- They will also examine how well ‘vaping’ works to help people give up smoking
Electronic cigarette use has fallen for the first time among smokers, as a select committee has announced an inquiry into the devices.
Following studies linking e-cigarettes with cancer and infertility, the House of Commons science and technology committee will take evidence on how they affect human health.
MPs will look at how to tackle e-cigarette addiction and if their use should be restricted. They will also examine how well ‘vaping’ works to help people give up smoking, as research shows fewer people are using the devices to quit.
Following studies linking e-cigarettes with cancer and infertility, the House of Commons science and technology committee will take evidence on how they affect human health
Market analysts Mintel report that in the last two years the proportion of ex-smokers and current smokers using e-cigarettes has fallen from 69 per cent to 62 per cent.
The electronic cigarette industry, which tripled its value in 2013 as vaping took off, rose by just six per cent last year.
The Commons committee will look at e-cigarettes following years of arguments between scientists over the health risks of vaping.
The decision to launch an inquiry came after the Royal College of Physicians’ tobacco advisory group backed the the use of e-cigarettes in the UK to stop smoking, while the US Surgeon General warned they could prolong tobacco use by smokers and provide a ‘gateway’ to smoking regular cigarettes for young people.
The divide in opinion has seen a major British study published this month which found electronic cigarettes are far safer and less toxic than smoking tobacco, Meanwhile US studies have found they may cause damage to the heart and lungs.
Stephen Metcalfe, Conservative chair of the science and technology committee, said: ‘We will want to probe how well the science meshes with any Government action to encourage or discourage e-cigarette consumption.
‘An important role for the committee will be to identify any gaps in the evidence and whether it is right for the Government to take action while any key gaps remain.’
The use of electronic cigarettes has risen sharply in recent years and it is one of the subjects picked by the select committee following a Dragon’s Den-style appeal for proposals from the public.
The ‘My Science Inquiry’ project received 78 submissions, and will also look at algorithms, embryo research and hydrogen fuel cells.
Written evidence from Jack Neville, a member of the public who suggested electronic cigarettes, called for more scrutiny of the devices.
He said: ‘Right now anyone can sell them freely with little restriction or regard for people. People are under the impression that while cigarettes harm, vaping doesn’t because it’s not “toxic”.’
Having considered an e-cigarettes inquiry previously, the committee said now the ‘time is right’ to take them on.
MPs will look at how to tackle e-cigarette addiction and if their use should be restricted
The probe could also examine how the Government’s policy on e-cigarettes is influenced by the public finances and the implications of restricting or encouraging their use.
Mintel has only been recording their use for three years but found however that sales have tapered off, rising by only six per cent to £230 million last year.
However, roughly one in eight people still use one of the devices, most often during work breaks according to the firm, when stress is the trigger.
Electronic cigarettes remain the most popular way to give up smoking, with 62 per cent of quitters vaping compared to around one in seven using nicotine replacement gums and patches.
A spokesman for the UK Vaping Industry Association said: ‘In recent weeks we have had a leading long-term study from Cancer Research UK demonstrating that vaping is a vastly safer alternative to smoking. Yet we have also had contradictory information from studies conducted abroad, often based on dubious research.
‘This inquiry will be an excellent opportunity to robustly interrogate the science.’