On the 13th of August the Royal Society for Public Health published a new report entitled "Stopping Smoking by Using Other Sources of Nicotine", which can be read in detail here: RSPH Report (PDF)
NNA welcomes policy proposals which would serve to encourage smokers to switch from smoking to harm reduced products such as ecigs or snus. We do not believe that an extension of the current smoking ban in enclosed public spaces to outside spaces will be effective, and may in fact be counterproductive. Whilst enclosed space bans were a popular measure with the non smoking public, and even many smokers who appreciated the discomfort indoor smoking can cause non-smokers, outdoor bans serve no demonstrable health benefits and will be seen as an infringement on the choice to smoke which many will no doubt resist.
Choice is a key factor in the success of e-cigarettes as a harm reduction method because consumers feel empowered by the fact that they have taken ownership of their own health in a way that was not previously available to them. The substitution of choice with coercion and the inevitable stigmatism which outdoor bans will bring will erode this significant advantage. Public health policies in this area should aim to stimulate behaviour change through the provision of education and accurate information about nicotine and tobacco harm reduction, and to ensure that regulation does not stifle or discourage consumers' efforts to live a more healthy life should they choose to do so. Policies should be framed to encourage change in behaviour, rather than be about forcing change via increasing prohibition and general disapproval, which is likely to simply breed resistance and antagonism.
There is much to be applauded in the RSPH report. We wholeheartedly support their call for a better understanding about nicotine and the relative safety of harm reduced products such as e-cigarettes. The fact that (according to the RSPH survey) 69% of smokers do not know that NRT products are less dangerous than cigarettes is alarming. More alarming still is the fact that according to the most recent ONS data, 20% of people incorrectly believe that e-cigarettes are as dangerous as smoking regular cigarettes, and this percentage has increased from 6% in 2012. This is a monumental failure in public health messaging and there will undoubtedly be costs in terms of lives and health if the public misconceptions on this subject remain uncorrected. The fact that the use of e-cigarettes is at least 95% safer than smoking should be prominent in the minds of smokers everywhere.
We also welcome the RSPH's call for greater utilisation of e-cigarettes as a tool in the armoury of Smoking Cessation Services. Without doubt there are smokers for whom e-cigarettes might be effective as a cessation device, but who lack the confidence to try them without support. We believe it is essential that services do not discourage the use of e-cigarettes, and further, that advisors should be equipped with the knowledge and resources they require to be able to support service users who choose to try to quit smoking using e-cigarettes. This will ensure that clients are given the best possible chance of success. NNA has considerable experience in this area and is already working with a number of services to achieve this end.