Is heat-not-burn the silver bullet people are looking for?

Vaping could soon be seen on trains and buses across the UK, following the latest report from the Science and Technology Committee.

MPs are mulling over a number of proposals contained within their findings, which reaffirm that electronic cigarettes remain an invaluable tool in the battle against smoking.

The report backed Public Health England’s claim that vaping is 95 per cent less harmful than a normal cigarette, and also said the threat from second-hand electronic cigarette vapour was ‘negligible’.

But with worldwide electronic cigarette sales starting to plateau, question marks remain over whether they are a silver bullet or a flash in the pan.

Critics claim they do not deliver enough of a hit to people who smoke regularly, while suspicions still remain over their long-term health impact.

Heat-not-burn technology is by no means a newcomer to this particular party – the first product was actually launched in the late 1980s.

Electronic cigarettes heat up what is usually a nicotine-containing liquid rather than tobacco, which turns into a vapour to be inhaled.

Heat-not-burn, meanwhile, warms tobacco to temperatures well below the 800c at which a normal cigarette burns, theoretically giving a similar hit at much less risk.

Technological advances mean more and more heat-not-burn products are hitting the market, and manufacturers hope these can offer a middle ground to those reluctant to stub out their cigarettes just yet.

“Electronic cigarettes are good,” said one manufacturer. “But heat-not-burn has a taste, an experience and a ritual that is a lot closer to an actual cigarette for a smoker who is looking for nicotine, the ritual and lots of other things.”

Early findings suggest heat-not-burn does present a far lower risk to health than traditional cigarettes.

Germany’s Federal Institute for Risk Assessment claims heat-not-burn dramatically reduces the intake of harmful organic compounds.

And in the UK, the independent Committee on Toxicity of Chemicals concludes that it exposes users to between 50 and 90 per cent fewer ‘harmful and potentially harmful compounds’ found in traditional cigarettes.

While electronic cigarette sales are slowing, the heat-not-burn market is estimated to be worth $15.36 billion by 2021 compared to the $2.12 billion in 2016.

And, as successful as electronic cigarettes have been, there is a feeling that they are too far removed from a traditional cigarette to lure some smokers away.

They still have a part to play in an effective harm reduction strategy, but pinning all hopes solely on vaping risks marginalising other potentially invaluable tools in the quest to cut smoking numbers.