Improving policy on alternative nicotine products

Cigarettes kill over half of their long-term users. The World Health Organisation considers the tobacco epidemic one of the biggest public health threats the world has faced, killing about 8 million people per year worldwide. Products delivering nicotine without combustion could offer a substantially less harmful alternative. 

Evidence-based policy

Our team has provided much needed evidence to support a credible approach to policy making and treatment in this area. Our research found that e-cigarette use helps tobacco smokers quit smoking, identified factors influencing smokers switching from tobacco to e-cigarettes, and assessed the likelihood of e-cigarettes encouraging young people to start smoking.

Public Health England (PHE) commissioned our team to summarise the evidence on novel nicotine products in seven independent reports.

These reports have underpinned approaches by organisations such as PHE and the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence to support healthcare professionals, smokers and the general public to reduce the harms of tobacco smoking.

Informing training and international reach

National training and professional organisations have used our findings in their guidance around e-cigarettes and have supported better success rates for smokers using e-cigarettes for quitting compared with other options.

The reports built the foundation for current e-cigarette policy in England for six years, including a 2019 Green Paper, helping move the country towards the government’s aim of making the UK smoke-free by 2030. Our research has also informed policy change in other countries, such as legalisation of vaping products and recommendations to use them for smoking cessation in New Zealand.

Newer nicotine products also include those that aim to heat rather than burn tobacco. A National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Maudsley Biomedical Research Centre PhD student conducted the first independent literature review on heated tobacco products. The review has been cited very widely, including in the World Health Organization report on the global tobacco epidemic.

Future research will continue to assess the level of harm and benefit of different products more precisely, with a focus on people with psychiatric disorders to prevent the disproportionate morbidity and mortality.



National and International Collaboration | Improving Access and Uptake