The role of vape in the UK’s tobacco harm reduction policymaking has been a key one for several years now.

And one of the various scientific and medical bodies which supports the role vaping can play, as a less harmful alternative to cigarettes, is the Royal College Of Physicians (RCP).

Releasing their latest report, Smoking And Health 2021 – A Coming Of Age For Tobacco Control?, the RCP places significant focus on our industry, with a number of recommendations, which it suggests should be followed with urgency and have them adopted into the forthcoming Tobacco Control Plan for England.

Here we take a look at a few of the key RCP statements.


The RCP is clear that taxing tobacco has contributed to declining smoking rates in the UK – and recommends using further increases alongside ‘measures that make it as easy as possible for smokers to stop using tobacco’, such as stop smoking support through all NHS services, and by ‘actively promoting the uptake of consumer alternatives to smoking such as electronic cigarettes.’

  • “To support this approach, tax on medicinal nicotine is reduced to zero and to 5% on consumer non-tobacco nicotine products such as electronic cigarettes.”


Mass media campaign budgets were around the £23m mark back in 2008, and have fallen steadily since. This peak coincided with a peak in smoking cessation across the UK. The RCP wants to see the budget pushed back up to this level – but with an additional focus on encouraging smokers to switch to e-cigarettes, and allowing e-cig packs to state their less harmful status.

  • “Mass media campaigns support the use of electronic cigarettes as a quitting aid or substitute for smoking, and redress false perceptions about the safety of e-cigarettes compared with cigarettes.”
  • “Health warnings on e-cigarette packs include a statement that e-cigarette vapour is likely to be substantially less harmful than tobacco smoke.”


Many smoke-free policies, whether public spaces or quasi-private spaces like workplaces, automatically include vaping alongside cigarettes – but the RCP says this should not be the case, as ‘non-tobacco nicotine, including e-cigarettes, is important as a means to support abstinence from smoking in public places’.

  • “Electronic cigarettes do not emit smoke, so smoke-free policies are not automatically extended to vaping.”
  • “Policies on vaping in indoor and outdoor areas are used to facilitate smoke-free policies, acknowledging that permitting vaping where smoking is prohibited may help indoor and outdoor smoke-free measures to succeed.”


The UK’s regulations on e-cigarettes and e-liquids are some of the most stringent in the world – following the EU’s TPD framework, adopted into UK law via the TRPR. But the RCP has called for standardised reporting requirements on their emissions and that these should be easily available to consumers. But more importantly – it calls for the use of comparative health claims to be permitted in non-tobacco nicotine products’ promotional materials.

  • “A review of the regulation of e-cigarettes in the UK is undertaken to assess the extent to which the regulations support switching from smoking, while limiting appeal to and use by youth, as well as the extent to which the current regulations ensure products on the market are safe.”


It seems like it’s stating the obvious, but the RCP seem to be keen on making their messages as clear as possible – that ‘treating tobacco addiction should be the norm in all areas of healthcare’, going on to highlight how e-cigarettes are an ‘effective treatment for tobacco dependency and their use should be included and encouraged in all treatment pathways.’

  • “E-cigarettes are included in standard protocols to treat tobacco dependency.”


Among a raft of recommendations aimed at preventing young people from starting to smoke, the RCP has called for restrictions on the use of cigarettes in films, on TV and in the general media, as well as tougher licensing. And it rightly calls for restrictions on e-cigarette packaging.

  • “Additional measures to reduce the uptake of smoking, including…restrictions on the packaging of electronic cigarettes to make them less appealing to children…’


The RCP reflects on the 60 years since its first report into smoking and public health – and how today, like then in 1962, smoking still the ‘largest avoidable cause of premature death and disability in the UK’. It goes on to highlight that while COVID-19 claimed the lives of around 80,000 people in 2020, tobacco smoking killed 94,000 people.

The continued discussion of e-cigarettes within the RCP’s reports demonstrates their belief in the products as an alternative, a stance it has repeated taken in recent years.

And we welcome the renewed attention it draws to how effective vaping is as a less harmful alternative to cigarettes for adult smokers.