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E-cigarettes ‘should be available on the NHS'

An updated evidence review by Public Health England has concluded that e-cigarettes could be contributing to at least 20,000 people quitting smoking a year.

But the review says that many thousands of smokers still ‘incorrectly believe’ that vaping is as harmful as smoking, with around 40% of smokers never having tried an e-cigarette.

PHE said that the updated research showed that vaping was associated with improved quit success rates and an accelerated drop in smoking rates across the country last year.

PHE director for health improvement Professor John Newton said: ‘Our new review reinforces the finding that vaping is a fraction of the risk of smoking, at least 95% less harmful, and of negligible risk to bystanders. Yet over half of smokers either falsely believe that vaping is as harmful as smoking or just don’t know.’

The review also found that a review was needed about how to 'facilitate regulation of some e-cigarettes as medicines', possibly including 'more focus on post marketing surveillance' and the provision of licences for short-term use.

A summary published by PHE went further, saying it 'believes there is compelling evidence that e-cigarettes be made available to NHS patients'.

Professor Linda Bauld, professor of health policy at the University of Stirling and Cancer Research UK’s cancer prevention champion, said: ‘Concern has been expressed that e-cigarette use will lead young people into smoking. But in the UK, research clearly shows that regular use of e-cigarettes among young people who have never smoked remains negligible, less than 1%, and youth smoking continues to decline at an encouraging rate.

’We need to keep closely monitoring these trends, but so far the data suggest that e-cigarettes are not acting as a route into regular smoking amongst young people.’

PHE called on NHS trusts to become truly smoke free and ensure that e-cigarettes, alongside nicotine replacement therapies are available for sale in hospital shops; vaping policies support smokers to quit and stay smoke free; smoking shelters be removed; and frontline staff take every opportunity to encourage and support patients to quit.

Readers' comments (10)

  • Hmmm, only if the dose is tapered down properly as with any other NRT. Anecdotally I have seen most “vapers” continue vaping for years, many mix and match with cigarettes, and their nicotine dependency rises. Once their lives hit an inevitable crisis they go straight back to 40 a day.

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  • If you can afford cigarettes, you can afford the healthier option of e cigarettes.
    If e cigarettes are on prescription there will be widespread abuse, with some getting them on prescription and then making a healthy profit by selling them down the pub and at the same time continuing to smoke.

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  • Lucky we have a huge surplus of free appointments and underemloyed staff to cope with the deluge of extra work that will result if anyone listens to [the professor]

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  • On one hand we are trying to reduce medicine budget by stopping gluten free products on NHS or encouraging people to buy mecinies on OTC so how can we justify spending money on E cigarettes when smoking is clearly a lifestyle choice made by one section of community ?

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  • Cobblers

    Actually I am quite partial to a Rioja Gran Reserva over the weekend with my Sunday roast.

    It stops me drinking the rest of the week (says I) so may I have a bottle on prescription too please?

    /It is time to rethink this idiocy of freebies on prescription. We need to reduce what is available, not increase it!

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  • I think that clinicians with the title professor lose all credibility and perceptions of reality

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  • Vinci Ho

    Being a supporter of e-cigarettes for smoking cessation , I do think that patients should buy their own e-cigarettes given the circumstances of resources in NHS. In fact , I would argue the motivation to quit is more consolidated than labelling e-cigarette as a prescription item.

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  • Doctor McDoctor Face

    How about people who smoke don't have free health care. In any insurance based health care system (which is most of the world) they would have to pay extra premiums.

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  • Totally agree with all of the previous comments......

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  • One corrupt Professor or politician is enough and it shouldn't be difficult getting this on NHS.
    BTW, they say a shot of cognac is good for your health, can we have that on NHSE please 'to improve outcomes.'(Read: make it possible for a professor or a politician to buy a yatch)

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