E-Cigarettes: An Emerging Public Health Challenge


E-cigarettes: an emerging public health policy challenge

While there has long been consensus among the international health community that cigarette smoking has lasting and detrimental health effects, e-cigarettes raise new questions and challenges for public health policy. Some argue that e-cigarettes can aid in smoking cessation, others view e-cigs as a gateway to cigarette smoking for previously non-smokers. In England, where over 15% of the total population smokes, and 5% of the population now use e-cigarettes, addressing these questions and developing national strategy for addressing the this emerging issue is critical. At the 2015 IANPHI Annual Meeting in Paris in October, Mr. Duncan Selbie, director of Public Health England (PHE), presented PHE's recently published expert review on e-cigarettes which concluded that e-cigarettes are 95% less harmful than smoking. Selbie provided background and evidence in support of the review's claims, while also noting that the strategy may not be applicable to all countries. 

Although PHE is confident in its policy strategy, which will integrate e-cigarettes into smoking cessation efforts, its claims have sparked controversy and both positive and negative feedback from the global public health community. Mr. Selbie's presentation at the IANPHI Annual Meeting led to a lively discussion, during which members shared comments regarding their national strategies for addressing the emerging public health challenge of e-cigarettes. Though some countries integrate e-cigarettes into smoking cessation efforts, others worry about the unknown long-term health effects of e-cigarettes, as well as their potential to engage young people and other non-smokers in smoking. To learn more about Public Health England's strategy, visit the PHE E-Cigarettes: An Evidence Update page.

Additional information on the e-cigarette debate:

US CDC: E-Cigarettes, an emerging public health challenge

UK: Statement on E-Cigarettes

Lancet: E-Cigarettes and Smoking Cessation

View more on Public Health England's Smokefree Campaign Adverts

Best estimates show e-cigarettes are 95 percent less harmful to your health than normal cigarettes

PHE Director Duncan Selbie