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The risks and benefits of electronic cigarettes for the general population

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Date du document : 22/02/2016

Date de mise en ligne : 27/01/2017

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The HCSP (High Council for public health) updates its opinion of 25 April 2014 on the risks and benefits of electronic cigarettes extended to the general population
According to HCSP, e-cigarettes:

  • can be considered a smoking cessation aid for smokers who would like to completely break their habit;
  • are a tool for reducing the risks of smoking.  However, for smokers who also use e-cigarettes, the debate continues;
  • may act as a route into smoking.
    • This risk would be offset by the fact that e-cigarettes could delay the age at which people start smoking.
  • run a risk of renormalising tobacco consumption given the rosy picture painted by its marketing and visibility in public spaces.

The HCSP recommends:

  • continuing and stepping up tobacco control policies;
  • informing, without resorting to advertising, healthcare professionals and smokers that e-cigarettes
    • are a smoking cessation aid for smokers who wish to quit; appear to be a means of reducing the risks of tobacco when used exclusively. The advantages and disadvantages must be highlighted.
  • upholding the advertising and sales prohibition arrangements stipulated by the law for  modernising the French health service and extending the prohibition on use to all places designed for collective occupation.

The HCSP calls for:

  • the French observational scheme regarding smoking to be reinforced, robust epidemiological and clinical studies on e-cigarettes to be conducted and research in the humanities and social sciences to be undertaken on this question;
  • the status of e-cigarettes and refill containers to be clarified;
  • labelling and marking efforts to be continued to ensure consumers are given as much information as possible and for the sake of their safety;
  • the stakeholders concerned – the pharmaceuticals industry in particular – to discuss the creation of a "medicalised" electronic cigarette;
  • heightened responsiveness on the part of public authorities to "technological innovations purporting a public health benefit" presented on the market with no prior regulations;
  • the World Health Organisation to issue general recommendations on e-cigarettes which would bolster a future version of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control.

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