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expert reaction to a conference papers on e-cigarettes during pregnancy and asthma

Experts comment on conference papers that were presented at the European Respiratory Society Congress, that looked at the use of e-cigarettes during pregnancy and asthma.


Dr James Doidge, Senior Research Associate at UCL, said:

“This unpublished research appears to provide more evidence that e-cigarettes should not be considered ‘safe’ and may even have adverse effects on unborn children. But are they ‘safer’? If so, by how much? This study yields no light on these questions because it did not include a tobacco control arm. Anybody quitting tobacco must weigh the potentially higher risk of relapse when quitting ‘cold turkey’ or with conventional nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) against the harms associated with alternatives such as vaping. For pregnant women, this balance should be tipped further towards abstinence or conventional NRT because of the apparent harms to their unborn children.”


Prof Linda Bauld, Professor of Health Policy at the University of Stirling, said:

“This study identifies a higher risk of allergic asthma in mice after their pregnant mothers were exposed to e-cigarette vapour. This has limited, if any, relevance to advice we would give to pregnant women about e-cigarettes. No-one is suggesting that pregnant women who are non-smokers should vape. Instead, e-cigarettes may have a role to play in helping pregnant women who already smoke.

“This study did not compare smoking and vaping which is the key comparison if we are to reduce risk.  It was also conducted with mice, and similar experiments have suggested that other widely prescribed medicines that are already licensed for use with pregnant women who smoke – such as nicotine replacement therapy – can also have negative impacts on infant mice.  Because this study didn’t compare vaping with smoking, and because of its limited relevance to humans, we should be very cautious about applying any lessons from this study outside of the laboratory.

“Smoking in pregnancy can have very serious consequences for a baby before and after birth. All the evidence we have to date suggests that e-cigarettes, while not risk free, are far safer than smoking and therefore pregnant women who find it difficult to quit smoking should not be discouraged from using them.”


Prof John Britton, Director of the UK Centre for Tobacco & Alcohol Studies at the University of Nottingham, said:

“I think this study shows that mice who are thinking of starting a family, and having done so expose their offspring to ovalbumin, should reflect on a decision to start vaping.  It has no relevance to human health or disease.

“Nobody argues that vaping is safe.  It is obviously better not to vape than to vape, but definitely better to vape than to smoke.”

*The European Respiratory Society (ERS) International Congress is the once-a-year occasion when the world’s respiratory experts meet to present and discuss the latest research on topics such as asthma, COPD, lung cancer, pollution and smoking.  For further information contact Emma Mason at


Declared interests

None declared


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