The electronic cigarette should not be offered as a smoking cessation tool by health professionals, for lack of hindsight on its benefits and risks, considers the High Council for Public Health (HCSP), in a notice published on Tuesday, January 4.
“Health professionals who accompany a smoker in a smoking cessation process must use drug or non-drug treatments that have proven their effectiveness”such as nicotine patches or gum, judges the HCSP.
According to this advisory body, “there is insufficient evidence-based knowledge to suggest [les cigarettes électroniques] as smoking cessation aids in the care of smokers by health professionals”. “The potential benefits and risks of medium or long-term use of electronic cigarettes with or without nicotine are not established to date”continues the HCSP, which wants studies to be conducted on the subject.
However, the HCSP does not totally condemn these products, which can “be used outside [ou en complément] care within the framework of the healthcare system”. Even if we do not know precisely the relationship between their benefits and their risks, it is not excluded that “these products used outside the health system can represent a help for some consumers and thus contribute to improving their health”.
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Fine particles whose long-term effects are unknown
This opinion replaces a precedent dated 2016, in which the consultative body considered that the electronic cigarette could be considered as a “smoking cessation tool” for people who want to quit smoking.
The electronic cigarette emits, by heating a liquid composed of propylene glycol or glycerol, a vapor generally loaded with nicotine and aromas. It does not emit tar or carbon monoxide, the two most harmful elements of tobacco smoke that cause cancer and cardiovascular disease. But the vapor contains fine particles whose long-term effects are not known.
The question divides the medical community. On the one hand, the health authorities are very cautious: in July, the World Health Organization (WHO) repeated that electronic cigarettes could be “dangerous” and should be regulated.
But this caution is deemed culpable by addiction specialists. The latter point out that the electronic cigarette is infinitely less dangerous than tobacco and that, to choose, the first is preferable to the second.