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:
- Health impact of e-cigarettes and personal vaporisers
- Impact on smoking tobacco
- Impact on health in countries where allowed
- Impact on health in smokers
- Potential to reduce rates of smoking in Australia
- Smoking rates in countries where they are available
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 well‑established 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.