Tobacco quitters lacking e-cig advice

The number of smokers using e-cigarettes to quit the habit is declining amid 'little in the way of official guidance' from the market or the NHS, according to a report.

E-cigarettes are by far the most popular method used to quit smoking in the UK, but their usage has dropped from 69 per cent of smokers or ex-smokers using them in 2014 to 62 per cent last year, analysts Mintel said.

Meanwhile, use of non-prescription nicotine replacement therapy products remains stable at 15 per cent, as does use of nicotine replacement gums or patches on prescription from health professionals at 14 per cent.

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The survey found more than half of Britons believe e-cigarettes should be regulated by the NHS, and 57 per cent are concerned there is not enough information available on how the devices work.

Mintel senior beauty and personal care analyst Roshida Khanom said: “The lack of licensed products positioned as smoking cessation methods is hampering the e-cigarette sector and, as a result, we are not seeing as many new users enter the market.

“Our research shows that the majority of consumers don’t know how e-cigarettes work and that they would like to see more NHS regulation. Those who are using e-cigarettes as a smoking cessation method are doing so with little in the way of official guidance, whether from the market or the NHS.”

Mintel’s report follows US surgeon general Vivek Murthy issuing a stark warning over the risks of e-cigs in December, putting him at odds with UK public health officials.

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Dr Murthy said use among young people and young adults “is not safe” and is “now a major public health concern” as their brands were more vulnerable to the negative consequences of nicotine - the key ingredient in e-cigarettes.

His view contrasts with a report from Public Health England which said “best estimates show e-cigarettes are 95 per cent less harmful than normal cigarettes, and when supported by a smoking cessation service, help most smokers to quit tobacco altogether.”