Greater research into the use of e-cigarettes among young people and its link to smoking uptake is needed, according to Stirling’s Professor Linda Bauld.
After the publication of two new pieces of research this week, Professor Bauld has called for more in-depth, long-term studies to be carried out to clarify the role and impact of e-cigarettes.
Writing in The Conversation, Professor Bauld discussed new research carried out by the University of Southern California, the first longitudinal study carried out into e-cigarette and tobacco use among young people.
It found that those who said they had used e-cigarettes, but had never used tobacco, were more likely to have tried smoking tobacco both six months and a year later.
However Professor Bauld – echoing the study’s authors – stressed that this does not prove e-cigarettes themselves cause young people to take up smoking.
Professor Bauld said: "Previous research has played a hugely valuable role in helping to protect young people from the disease and death that smoking causes. The place of e-cigarettes within this remains to be seen - but it may be important, and we need to study it.
"Future longitudinal studiesare needed, that follow people up for longer, provide more information on how regularly they use e-cigarettes and tobacco, and also the types of products are used."
Professor Bauld also suggested that greater research into the safety of e-cigarettes and their role in smoking cessation is needed, as well as examination of the impact of policy around e-cigarettes, particularly to limit youth uptake.
Professor Bauld, who as well as being Professor of Health Policy at the University of Stirling is also Cancer Research UK’s Cancer Prevention Champion, has carried out a variety of research into tobacco control and smoking cessation, with recent focus on harm reduction and e-cigarettes. Professor Bauld is also Director of the Institute for Social Marketing at the University of Stirling.
A second study, published today by Public Health England, Kings College London and Queen Mary University London, found that e-cigarettes are 95% less harmful than tobacco and could be prescribed on the NHS in future to help smokers quit.
Commenting on the research, Professor Bauld said: "Fears that e-cigarettes have made smoking seem normal again or even led to people taking up tobacco smoking are not so far being realised based on the evidence assessed by the important independent review.
"In fact, the overall evidence points to e-cigarettes actually helping people to give up smoking tobacco."