The CDC says e-cigarettes may have long-term health effects and might even encourage users to pick up traditional cigarettes. The UK's Royal College of Physicians is singing a much different tune: It's urging smokers to give them a try. The lead author of a report released Thursday says e-cigs are "the first genuinely new way of helping people stop smoking that has come along in decades" and could help at least half of all regular smokers dump cigarettes, reports the New York Times. "That's a huge health benefit, bigger than just about any medical intervention," says the director of the UK Center for Tobacco and Alcohol Studies at the University of Nottingham. The report cites a British study that found e-cigarette use boosted a person's chance of quitting smoking by 50% more than with nicotine patches or no aid at all.
E-cigs "have very little downside" and should be "encouraged and endorsed" for smokers, the lead author tells the BBC, adding that they helped 20,000 British smokers quit in 2014. A public health professor with the University of Michigan says America "is focused exclusively on the hypothetical risks, none of which have been established," while the UK "is focusing on potential benefits." The Times notes that the Royal College of Physicians led the US before with its 1962 report on the dangers of smoking, but Stanton Glantz of the University of California says British researchers "are going off a cliff" and "taking England into a series of policies that five years from now they all will really regret." He cites his own study that found e-cigarettes actually lowered a person's chance of quitting smoking. (Another problem: E-cigs keep exploding.)