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Framework for the public health assessment of electronic cigarettes


Background Electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) are relatively new products with substantial public health impacts. Evidence on their effects is diverse and emerging rapidly, presenting challenges to high-quality policymaking and decision-making. This paper addresses these challenges by developing and presenting a framework for the public health assessment of e-cigarettes, using the Australian context as an example.

Methods Framework development involved stakeholder engagement, development of guiding principles, and consideration of existing relevant frameworks and the evidence requirements of current policy options, identified in published and grey literature.

Results Guiding principles include the need for the framework to: be evidence based; include consideration of the likely balance of benefits and risks of e-cigarettes, uncertainty and safety; support equity; support the ongoing application of evidence to high-quality policy and practice; and consider potential competing interests. The framework draws upon: health technology assessment; health impact assessment; environmental health risk assessment; healthcare recommendations evidence evaluation; consumer goods regulation; medicine and chemical scheduling; tobacco product evaluation; previous reviews and the precautionary principle. Final framework components are: (1) characterisation of products under consideration; (2) definition of populations of interest; (3) characterisation of tobacco smoking, control and impacts on health and well-being; (4) review of evidence on patterns of e-cigarette use; (5) review of evidence on e-cigarette use and health outcomes; (6) assessment of likely risks, benefits and safety; (7) identification and assessment of policy options to optimise health outcomes.

Conclusions Structured and ongoing public health assessment of e-cigarette use is likely to support health through enhancing evidence-based decision-making.

  • public policy
  • electronic nicotine delivery devices
  • prevention

Data availability statement

The data used in this paper are from publicly available sources.

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