About The Royal College of Physicians

The Royal College of Physicians of London (RCP) is the oldest medical college in England. They recently wrote a report on how ecigarettes are safer than regular cigarettes. In the 1500′s, medical practice in England was extremely poor and many doctors claimed to be ‘experienced physicians’, when in reality they had no training or qualifications. There were almost certainly many deaths that could have been prevented if they had been treated by medical professionals rather than untrained impostors. After a petition to King Henry VIII in 1518, it was finally decided that those with a qualification would be granted a license as proof of their right to practice medicine and those without a license who continued to practice and refer to themselves physicians, would be punished.

Since the college was established, it has provided vast amounts of information on many health issues, thus improving and shaping Public Health, Medical Literature and Medical Reforms. The RCP has supported a number of valuable causes including opening the first dispensary in England in 1968 and providing free medicine to poor people who wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford it They also supported the opening of the National Health Service in 1945 and were one of the first establishments to discover and report the crucial finding which linked smoking to lung cancer in 1962. The report named Smoking and Health was an outstanding achievement which called upon the government to change Public Health measures in an attempt to reduce cigarette smoking, whilst also calling upon doctors to advise patients of the detrimental health effects tobacco smoking causes and help them to quit smoking for good.

The RCP’s News Breaking Report

The most recent report released by the RCP is called Nicotine without smoke: tobacco harm reduction. The report is a monumental breakthrough for e-cigarettes and encourages smokers to use them, reassuring people that e-cigs are far safer than regular cigarettes. The report contains 200 pages of factual information about policy, regulation and the science behind e-cigs. It addresses and challenges the misunderstandings and controversy around the safety of electronic cigarettes whilst firmly promoting the use of e-cigs in a bid to aid tobacco harm reduction. The report states its aim is to ‘provide a fresh update on the use of harm reduction in tobacco smoking, in relation to all non-tobacco nicotine products but particularly e-cigarettes. It concludes that, for all the potential risks involved, harm reduction has huge potential to prevent death and disability from tobacco use, and to hasten our progress to a tobacco-free society’.

The Nicotine without smoke: tobacco harm reduction report confirms just how harmful smoking really is by confirming that it is the ‘biggest avoidable cause of death and disability, and social inequality in health, in the UK’. It goes on to discuss how hard it is for smokers to give up cigarettes because of their addiction to nicotine and how, in the interest of public health, e-cigarettes should be promoted ‘as widely as possible as a substitute for smoking in the UK’. The report also touches upon what the e-cig industry and vaping advocates do not wish to support, which is the involvement of tobacco companies who could manipulate the system in an attempt to make more money, regardless of whether they sell you conventional cigarettes or a safer alternative. The report says ‘The tobacco industry has become involved in the e-cigarette market and can be expected to try to exploit these products to market tobacco cigarettes, and to undermine wider tobacco control work’.

The real breakthrough in this report comes from its evidence based conclusions. The main conclusions have been taken from the RCP website and confirm just how beneficial electronic cigarettes can be. They say E-cigarettes are not a gateway to smoking – in the UK, use of e-cigarettes is limited almost entirely to those who are already using, or have used, tobacco. E-cigarettes do not result in normalisation of smoking – there is no evidence that either nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) or e-cigarette use has resulted in renormalisation of smoking. None of these products has to date attracted significant use among adult never-smokers, or demonstrated evidence of significant gateway progression into smoking among young people. E-cigarettes and quitting smoking – among smokers, e-cigarette use is likely to lead to quit attempts that would not otherwise have happened, and in a proportion of these to successful cessation. In this way, e-cigarettes can act as a gateway from smoking. E-cigarettes and long-term harm – the possibility of some harm from long-term e-cigarette use cannot be dismissed due to inhalation of the ingredients other than nicotine, but is likely to be very small, and substantially smaller than that arising from tobacco smoking. With appropriate product standards to minimise exposure to the other ingredients, it should be possible to reduce risks of physical health still further. Although it is not possible to estimate the long-term health risks associated with e-cigarettes precisely, the available data suggest that they are unlikely to exceed 5% of those associated with smoked tobacco products, and may well be substantially lower than this figure’.

Comments and Views on the RCP Report

Commenting on the report was chair of the RCP’s Tobacco Advisory Group, Professor John Britton. He confirms that the findings in this report can clear up the misunderstandings around the safety of e-cigs and their place in the fight against tobacco related illnesses. Professor John Britton says ‘The growing use of electronic cigarettes as a substitute for tobacco smoking has been a topic of great controversy, with much speculation over their potential risks and benefits. This report lays to rest almost all of the concerns over these products, and concludes that, with sensible regulation, electronic cigarettes have the potential to make a major contribution towards preventing the premature death, disease and social inequalities in health that smoking currently causes in the UK. Smokers should be reassured that these products can help them quit all tobacco use forever’. Professor John Britton wanted to spread the word of the RCP report on harm reduction and took part in a talk show on BBC2 and an interview on Regulator Watch. Additionally, Doctor Nick Hopkinson, NHS Consultant Chest Physician & Reader in Respiratory Medicine, also wanted the RCP report to reach as many people as possible and told the BBC how smokers should be encouraged to use e-cigarettes to help them quit. His video, entitled on the BBC website as ‘E-cigs “have huge health benefits” says doctor’, can be accessed here.

The Royal College of Physicians president, Professor Jane Dacre, also commented on the report and advised that harm reduction has huge potential when it comes to preventing smoking fatalities and tobacco related illnesses. She states ‘Since the RCP’s first report on tobacco, Smoking and health, in 1962, we have argued consistently for more and better policies and services to prevent people from taking up smoking, and help existing smokers to quit. This new report builds on that work and concludes that, for all the potential risks involved, harm reduction has huge potential to prevent death and disability from tobacco use, and to hasten our progress to a tobacco-free society. With careful management and proportionate regulation, harm reduction provides an opportunity to improve the lives of millions of people. It is an opportunity that, with care, we should take’.

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