E-cigarettes may soon be prescribed by the NHS to help smokers quit smoking, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency has revealed.
New guidance published on Friday 29th October 2021 paves the way for specific, medically licensed and approved products to be prescribed for smokers who want to stop smoking by switching to vaping. Manufacturers of e-cigs will need to approach the MHRA to have their product approved, in the same way makers of other medicines available on the NHS do. Once a product is approved, doctors and clinicians would then decide on a case-by-case basis whether a patient would benefit from an e-cig, in the same way that other medicines are prescribed.
If carried out, this would mean England becomes the first country in the world to prescribe e-cigs and vape devices as a medical product.
E-cigarettes were the most popular aid used by smokers trying to quit in 2020, with the number of vapers reaching 3.6 million - more than users of more traditional nicotine-replacement therapy products like sprays, patches or gum. Expert reviews from scientists the world over have been clear that regulated and correctly-used e-cigarettes are far less harmful than smoking, and to become medically-licensed in England an e-cig device would have to past the most stringent of tests. E-cigs do not produce tar or carbon monoxide, two of the most harmful chemicals in tobacco smoke.
Sir Norman Lamb, former health minister who chaired the Commons committee inquiry into e-cigarettes in 2018, welcomes the move and says "I am convinced this will be a gamechanger."
Smoking sadly remains the leading cause of death across the country, though fortunately UK rates are at a record low. Across England, smoking rates vary dramatically - for example, Blackpool has a smoking rate of 23.4%, while Richmond upon Thames has a smoking rate of just 8%.
Sajid Javid, the health secretary, says "Opening the door to a licensed e-cigarette prescribed on the NHS has the potential to tackle the stark disparities in smoking rates across the country, helping people stop smoking wherever they live and whatever their background."
At Vapourcore we of course welcome this move - it goes a long way to reassure smokers of the benefits of e-cigs, and will hopefully help many people quit the cigarettes for good!