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The challenge

E-cigarettes, smoking and health

Our researchers recently undertook a scientific literature review into the use and health impacts of e-cigarettes and personal vaporisers.

There were six sub-categories in the report:

  1. Health impact of e-cigarettes and personal vaporisers
  2. Impact on smoking tobacco
  3. Impact on health in countries where allowed
  4. Impact on health in smokers
  5. Potential to reduce rates of smoking in Australia
  6. Smoking rates in countries where they are available

Our response

Key findings of the literature review

A summary of the findings are provided below.

Health impact of e-cigarettes and personal vaporisers

  • The evidence available suggests that regular use of e-cigarettes is likely to have adverse health consequences.
  • There is a lack of clarity about the: magnitude of adverse health effects and quantity of e-cigarette use required to trigger adverse health effects.

Impact on smoking tobacco

  • In many countries where appropriate evidence is available, it appears that e-cigarette use occurs with cigarette use.
  • However the evidence is consistent in suggesting that use of e-cigarettes by non-smoking youth predicts future smoking.
  • While many smokers and former smokers state a preference for e-cigarettes as a smoking cessation method, the effectiveness of this method compared with other smoking cessation methods is not known.
Impact on health of e-cigarettes and personal vaporisers in countries where they have been allowed
  • Based on the current evidence it is not possible to ascertain whether e-cigarettes have a positive or a negative effect on health in countries where they are permitted.

Impact on health of e-cigarettes and personal vaporisers in smokers

  • When e-cigarettes are used by smokers instead of conventional cigarettes there is evidence for improvement in individual health, probably mainly due to the reduction in smoking.
  • However, use of e-cigarettes may also introduce independent health risks, and ‘dual use’ (using both e-cigarettes and conventional cigarettes) is popular.

Potential for e-cigarettes and personal vaporisers to reduce rates of smoking in Australia

  • It is a critical research question to determine the effectiveness of e-cigarettes compared to other smoking cessation methods among Australian smokers generally, but also amongst groups with a high smoking rate.
  • The rate at which young people and adults start smoking as a result of using e-cigarettes should be assessed and monitored to fill a research gap.
  • On present evidence, it is not possible to determine whether less restrictive access to e-cigarettes would reduce rates of smoking in Australia.

Smoking rates in countries where e-cigarettes and personal vaporisers are available

  • There does not appear to be a consistent pattern of rate of e‐cigarette use compared to tobacco smoking across countries.
  • While tobacco smoking is a wellestablished practice that varies widely between countries, e-cigarette use has spread across countries in the recent past with different rate of device availability, marketing, familiarity and regulations.
  • It is plausible that a consistent pattern between tobacco smoking and e-cigarette use across countries could develop in the future.

Download the full report

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