The Chartered Institute of Environmental Health (CIEH) has issued a health warning against opening up a debate to allow vaping in the workplace, after MPs included the recommendation in a new report.
In their report, E-cigarettes, MPs from the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee wrote: “Although e-cigarettes are significantly less harmful than conventional cigarettes, and are helping people to stop smoking, they are generally prohibited in closed spaces including workplaces, restaurants and on public transport.
“Vapers are typically shown to outside ‘smoking areas’ to vape next to a conventional smoker, which could be counter-productive for those attempting to stay away from cigarettes while trying to quit smoking.”
They urge government to have a ‘wider debate’ on how e-cigarettes should be dealt with in these spaces, focusing on the “evidence rather than misconceptions about e-cigarettes’ health impacts”.
The committee has also called for vaping to be prescribed by the NHS to support people looking to quit smoking.
Reacting to the recommendations, the CIEH said it ‘urged caution’ in what it described as the ‘rush to embrace vaping.’
Tony Lewis, head of policy at the CIEH, said: “Whilst we whole-heartedly support measures to encourage smokers to give up, we believe that the evidence gap on the long-term health implications of vaping needs addressing as a priority and more research carried out.
“Quite simply, until more is known it would be irresponsible to wholeheartedly embrace vaping as the answer.”
The report, published on 17 August, came as new research showed how chemicals used in vaping can restrict the immune system’s ability to clear the lungs.
The team of researchers from Birmingham University conducted tests on healthy lung cells which were exposed to e-cigarette fluid over 24 hours. Results published in Thorax magazine, found the cells’ ability to break down dust, bacteria and other particles – which can cause damage to the lungs – was limited after exposure to e-cigarette fluid.
Lead author Professor David Thickett told the Independent: “They are safer in terms of cancer risk, but if you vape for 20 or 30 years and this can cause COPD [chronic obstructive pulmonary disease], then that’s something we need to know about.”
Asthma UK said it welcomed initiatives to stop people smoking but also called for more research into the long-term health effects of e-cigarettes. Director of research and policy Dr Samantha Walker said: “An estimated 750,000 people with asthma could find e-cigarettes trigger their asthma symptoms, leaving them coughing, wheezing and struggling to breathe.”
Approximately 2.9 million people in the UK are using e-cigarettes.
Norman Lamb MP, chair of the Science and Technology Committee, said: “Smoking remains a national health crisis and the government should be considering innovative ways of reducing the smoking rate.
“E-cigarettes are less harmful than conventional cigarettes, but current policy and regulations do not sufficiently reflect this and businesses, transport providers and public places should stop viewing conventional and e-cigarettes as one and the same. There is no public health rationale for doing so.”
Read the report on Parliament's website here
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