England’s National Health Service could begin prescribing e-cigarettes to people who want to quit smoking.
The government wants the country to be smoke-free by 2030.
Health Secretary Sajid Javid has backed the plan saying prescribed vape products have the “potential to tackle the stark disparities in smoking rates across the country, helping people stop smoking wherever they live and whatever their background.”
“This country continues to be a global leader on healthcare, whether it’s our Covid-19 vaccine rollout saving lives or our innovative public health measures reducing people’s risk of serious illness,” he said in a statement on Oct. 27.
Under new rules from the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), vape makers would be allowed to submit their products for a review and approval process as if it were a medication.
Patients would be prescribed the devices on a case-by-case basis, free of charge.
Robert West, a tobacco expert at University College London, told The Times, “The regulatory hurdles to be overcome for a product to be licensed are still huge and I am not confident that any e-cigarette manufacturer that is independent of the tobacco industry will have the resources to overcome the hurdles.
The government views e-cigarettes as a “highly effective” way of helping smokers quit. Approximately 27% of smokers use vaping products, whereas about 18% use products like patches and nicotine gum.
While there are risks associated with vaping, “experts believe that it is still less harmful than smoking tobacco which remains one of Britain’s biggest killers with almost 6.1 million people in the country being smokers,” notes The Mirror.
The health secretary reported that about 64,000 people died due to smoking in 2019.
However, e-cigarettes are far from universally popular.
The World Health Organization has said they are “undoubtedly harmful” while the World Heart Federation wants more regulation on what it calls the “e-cigarette epidemic.”
“While rates are at record low levels in the UK, smoking is still the leading cause of preventable death and there are still around 6.1 million smokers in England, and in some areas such as Blackpool and Kingston upon Hull, almost one in four people smoke,” reports The Daily Mail. “Supporters of vaping point to British research estimating that in 2017 e-cigarettes helped more than 50,000 smokers in England to quit.”
It is not clear if Scotland and Wales will follow England’s lead if e-cigarette prescriptions are approved.