British MPs are backing e-cigarettes as a public health fix to help traditional smokers kick the habit — and are eyeing Brexit as the perfect opportunity to boost the industry.
In a ringing endorsement of vaping, MPs in the U.K. parliament’s science and technology committee said Friday that e-cigarettes are around 95 percent less harmful than traditional cigarettes and should be strongly promoted as an alternative, despite some uncertainties over the long-term health risks.
The committee recommended the U.K. reduce taxes on e-cigarettes and allow vaping in places where smoking is banned, such as mental health treatment facilities — as well as loosen restrictions on advertising and labeling, which will become possible when Britain exits EU regulations governing tobacco products after March 2019.
Many big tobacco companies have already moved into selling e-cigarettes alongside traditional cigarettes. The electronic devices deliver a nicotine hit by heating a tank of liquid containing the addictive chemical to create a vapor that can be inhaled — meaning they don’t contain as many cancer-causing substances as normal cigarettes.
Public Health England estimates e-cigarettes could be contributing to 20,000 successful quits per year.
“Even if we don’t know all of the long-term consequences … It is a known fact that 79,000 people die [of smoking in the U.K. each year],” said Liberal Democrat MP Norman Lamb, who chairs the House of Commons committee. “Being equivocal about [e-cigarettes] results inevitably in fewer people switching, which guarantees that more people will die of smoking. Can we morally justify that given the known facts and given what the scientists are telling us about the relative harm?”
The committee’s stance is striking given the cautious approach being taken by politicians in other countries.