This site is intended for health professionals only

At the heart of general practice since 1960

Government should ‘streamline’ licensing for GP prescribing of e-cigarettes, say MPs

GP prescribing of e-cigarettes could see more patients successfully give up conventional cigarettes, according to MPs.

The finding comes as part of a Government report which said that smokers should be encouraged to switch to e-cigarettes if giving up is not possible, and called on the process of medically licencing such a product to be 'streamlined'.

The House of Commons science and technology committee announced it would be investigating the safety of e-cigarettes last year, and would consider whether they could ‘re-normalise’ smoking for young smokers.

The final report, released on Friday, found that e-cigarettes ‘are substantially less harmful—by around 95%—than conventional cigarettes’, as they lack the tar and carbon monoxide of normal cigarettes.

It also said that the risks from ‘second-hand’ e-cigarette vapour are ‘negligible and substantially less than that of conventional cigarettes’, although it noted uncertainties about long-term health effects, because the products have not yet had a long history of use.

MPs concluded that existing smokers should be ‘encouraged to give up, but if that is not possible they should switch to e-cigarettes as a considerably less harmful alternative’.

The committee wrote: ‘A licensed product could also provide the basis for a doctor-patient relationship that could extend over the period needed to give up smoking, and help overcome some smokers’ reluctance to swap to e-cigarettes because of cost considerations.

‘Several studies show that smokers receiving specialised cessation assistance through their GP are more likely to stop successfully.’

The report recommended: ‘The Government should review with the e-cigarette industry how its systems for approving stop-smoking therapies could be streamlined to be able to respond appropriately should e-cigarette manufacturers put forward a product for licensing.’

The Government has said it will carry out an annual evidence review on e-cigarettes, as well as reporting on the research in its Tobacco Control Plan.

Earlier this year Public Health England found that e-cigarettes could be supporting at least 20,000 people quit smoking a year and concluded that there is ‘compelling evidence’ for e-cigarettes to be available to NHS patients.

Readers' comments (9)

  • Perhaps patients could ‘form a relationship ‘ with sombody else, in principle ecigs a good idea, but seriously if this needs to be brought into the NHS ( I don’t think it does) Pharmacists surely ‘ideally placed’

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • They buy fags at huge cost daily, let them buy e-cigs. Why does a GP have to get involved?

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • They are cheaper than smoking. The NHS should not get involved. I can see us being the 'pushers' for e-cigs. There is the potential for the workload to be huge and displace patients with serious illness.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Funny that this page appears to be sponsored by nicotine patches!
    Surely GP's do not need to be involved.
    Could patients just pick up from MP surgeries? Or perhaps from places of worship? Or pubs?

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Totally agree with all the comments above.....does not need GP involvement at all and should not be funded or subsidised by the NHS. If a patient has to pay for the e cigs themselves there is more incentive for them to quit.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • AlanAlmond

    Let’s just scrap GPs all together and get politicians in to do our surgeries. Seriously what’s the point in going to medical school when every clinical decision you make is dictated by a bunch of twat politicians on some jerk fest committee? They dictate what you prescribe for each condition, what day and time of the week your allowed to prescribe it and what computer program your allowed to use to record the event. I don’t understand what the Dr in Dr means any more. We are simply tools of the government..with pseudo responsibility which exists simply so we can get blamed when the political decisions cause harm. F£&k medicine in the U.K. just get a job I’m MacDonalds - at least it’s honest and not a smoke and mirror puppet show ..aka UK NHS Doctoring

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Some investigation into MPs and their spouses investments, hospitality received, directorships, paid consultancy work might be
    interesting.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Jones the Tie

    there is NO WAY this needs to come any where near primary care. If HMG want to support this then by all means do so by subsidizing sales or whatever but NOT out of NHS budget and they do NOT need to involve GPs..or Pharmacists for that matter... I'm NOT going to spend ANY of the time I already have not quite enough of re-doing a prescription because some punter wanted bubble-gum flavour and not hideous Nicotine flavour or orange and mint or whatever etc etc. don't get me started on the anti-social bastards subjecting me to their clouds of bubble-gum stinking whiff whilst I am having a coffee or when I think their car is on fire because some Thomas-the-Tank engine Muppet is puffing away on a sesame and mango flavoured device whilst driving.... there I've said it

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • David Banner

    Re Jones the Tie - epic post, and spot on!

    Hopefully this imbecilic suggestion will be deemed unaffordable and spare us the misery of further medicalising another lifestyle choice. E-cig on free prescription when the NHS is on its knees? Plot lost.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

Have your say