E-cigarettes should be banned in public and alcohol needs to carry a health warning, England’s chief medical officer tells Commons committee
- Chief medical officer for England tells MPs vaping should be banned in public
- Dame Sally Davies said the long-term side effects of e-cigarettes are unknown
- Her comments appear to put her at odds with advice from Public Health England
Published: 20:28 EDT, 6 June 2019 | Updated: 20:32 EDT, 6 June 2019
Vaping should be banned in public, the chief medical officer for England has told MPs.
Dame Sally Davies said she found having to breathe in ‘white clouds’ of e-cigarette vapour offensive and the devices should be restricted to people’s homes.
While she said e-cigarettes were safer than conventional cigarettes, their long-term side effects were unknown.
Her comments to the Commons science and technology committee, appear to put her at odds with official advice from Public Health England.
Dame Sally was asked by committee chairman Stephen Metcalfe MP for her view on e-cigarettes, and whether the NHS should use them to help people stop smoking [File photo]
It says that e-cigarettes should not ‘routinely’ be treated in the same way as conventional cigarettes and the public should not be worried about breathing in secondhand vapours.
And in December Professor John Newton of PHE said: ‘We need to reassure smokers that switching to an e-cigarette would be much less harmful than smoking.’
Dame Sally was asked by committee chairman Stephen Metcalfe MP for her view on e-cigarettes, and whether the NHS should use them to help people stop smoking.
She said e-cigarettes were ‘clearly much safer than tobacco smoking and they have become a much-liked way of stopping smoking. I’m quite relaxed about that. If they help people stop, they’re so much safer, I’d encourage them to use them.’
Get a flu jab- or wear a badge
NHS staff who refuse to get flu jabs should have to wear a badge to warn patients, England’s chief medical officer has suggested.
Dame Sally Davies told MPs that patients have a right to know if staff have not received the jab, which is free for frontline workers.
She added that the vaccine should actually be a ‘contractual obligation’ because staff have a ‘duty of care’.
Asked if it should be personal choice, she said: ‘Patients don’t have a choice. They are in a hospital, we are looking after them. We owe it to them.’
But she cautioned: ‘We don’t know their long-term side effects. Not only do I reserve my position on this, I would like to be careful.
‘It did take us 50 years to discover the harm of tobacco. Being much safer doesn’t mean it is safe.’
She said ‘early evidence’ showed chemicals in e-cigarettes – glycerol and formaldehyde – can harm cells, and further damage may be done to the lungs by flavourings used in them.
E-cigarette vapours should also be restricted in public, Dame Sally said. ‘I would have them not smoked in public places. I hate it when I walk past someone and they waft vapour over me and I think, “Here we are talking about pollution…”
We want people to live in clean air, why do we let them smoke in public places and let them waft it all over us. I don’t mind if in the privacy of their own houses or gardens they continue. I just don’t want to set an example to children for them to be smoked or used publicly.’
Dame Sally also said that after nine years in the job she had come to the conclusion that Britain was ‘an unhealthy environment’ and more needed to be done to tackle problems such as childhood obesity, and smoking and drinking during pregnancy.
Dame Sally will leave her role in September, with Professor Chris Whitty succeeding her as England’s chief medical officer and the Government’s chief medical adviser.
He is currently chief scientific adviser to the Department of Health and Social Care and professor of public and international health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.
Dame Sally Davies said ‘early evidence’ showed chemicals in e-cigarettes – glycerol and formaldehyde – can harm cells, and further damage may be done to the lungs by flavourings used in them [File photo]