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Royal College of Physicians

Clinical Articles, Lead Article

RCP supports e-cigarette benefits, pending regulation

The Royal College of Physicians (RCP) believes that e-cigarettes could lead to significant falls in the prevalence of smoking in the UK, prevent many deaths and episodes of serious illness, and help to reduce the social inequalities in health that tobacco smoking currently exacerbates, provided they are properly regulated, according to a specific policy statement on the use of e-cigarettes.

Released in response to current evidence, the statement’s other key points include:

•       The RCP recognises that electronic cigarettes and other novel nicotine devices can provide an effective, affordable and readily available retail alternative to conventional cigarettes. These innovations could make harm reduction a reality for smokers, as proposed in a 2007 RCP report.1

•       The RCP also recognises that these new products present potential risks as well as opportunities for individual and population health, and therefore advocates proportionate regulation to maximise the overall public health benefit.

•       Regulation should ensure that products deliver nicotine effectively and safely; that advertising and promotion do not target young people or other non-smokers; and that advertising and use (for example, in public places) do not undermine smoking prevention policies. The RCP therefore supports regulation of electronic cigarettes and other novel nicotine products as medicines.

•       Close monitoring of the use of electronic cigarettes in UK society is essential to ensure trends that are counter to public health are identified and acted upon promptly.

The UK Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) announced in 2013 that, from 2016, electronic cigarettes and other nicotine-containing products would be subject to medicines regulation, thus requiring manufacture to medicinal purity and delivery standards, and proactive controls on advertising.

In addition, the European Tobacco Product Directive (TPD) will, from mid-2016 at the latest, prohibit most advertising of unlicensed nicotine devices and require products to carry health warnings, meet as yet undefined purity and emissions standards, require data on nicotine uptake, limit nicotine content, and require suppliers to take full responsibility for quality and safety when used ‘under normal or reasonably foreseeable conditions’.


1. Harm reduction in nicotine addiction. Royal College of Physicians, 2007. Available from:

Published on: June 26, 2014

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