England Paves Way for E-Cig Prescriptions

    Photo: goodmanphoto

    Doctors in England may soon be prescribing e-cigarettes to help people stop smoking tobacco, according to a news story published by the Department of Health Social Care and the Office for Health Improvement and Disparities. The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) is publishing updated guidance that paves the way for medicinally licensed e-cigarette products to be prescribed for smoking cessation.

    Manufacturers can approach the MHRA to submit their products to go through the same regulatory approvals process as other medicines available on the health service.

    This could mean England becomes the first country in the world to prescribe e-cigarettes licensed as a medical product.

    If a product receives MHRA approval, clinicians could then decide on a case-by-case basis whether it would be appropriate to prescribe an e-cigarette to NHS patients to help them quit smoking. It remains the case that non-smokers and children are strongly advised against using e-cigarettes.

    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.

    Sajid Javid, Health and Social Care Secretary

    If a product receives MHRA approval, clinicians could then decide on a case-by-case basis whether it would be appropriate to prescribe an e-cigarette to NHS patients to help them quit smoking. It remains the case that non-smokers and children are strongly advised against using e-cigarettes.

    E-cigarettes contain nicotine and are not risk free, but expert reviews from the U.K. and U.S. have been clear that the regulated e-cigarettes are less harmful than smoking. A medicinally licensed e-cigarette would have to pass even more rigorous safety checks.

    Smoking remains the leading preventable cause of premature death and while rates are at record low levels in the U.K., there are still around 6.1 million smokers in England. There are also stark differences in rates across the country, with smoking rates in Blackpool (23.4 percent) and Kingston upon Hull (22.2 percent) poles apart from rates in wealthier areas such as Richmond upon Thames (8 percent).

    E-cigarettes were the most popular aid used by smokers trying to quit in England in 2020, according to the Department of Health and Social Care. E-cigarettes have been shown to be highly effective in supporting those trying to quit, with 27.2 percent of smokers using them compared with 18.2 percent using nicotine replacement therapy products such as patches and gum.

    Some of the highest success rates of those trying to quit smoking are among people using an e-cigarette to kick their addiction alongside local Stop Smoking services, with up to 68 percent successfully quitting in 2020 -2021.

    We fully welcome the news that the NHS in England is exploring opportunities to prescribe vaping products to help people quit smoking.

    Doug Mutter, director, VPZ

    “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,” said Health and Social Care Secretary Sajid Javid.

    “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.”

    Vapor industry representative welcomed the prospect of e-cigarettes on prescription.

    “We fully welcome the news that the NHS in England is exploring opportunities to prescribe vaping products to help people quit smoking,” said Doug Mutter, director of VPZ, the U.K.’s largest vaping retailer with 157 stores throughout the country.

    “The pandemic has triggered an increase in smoking rates and the public health problem has been compounded by funding cuts for NHS stop smoking services and local support groups.

     “However this progressive and innovative approach being considered by the NHS in England has the potential to reverse this damage and bring new momentum to our ambitions of becoming a smoke free nation by 2030.”

    The government deserves huge praise for taking this bold decision to look more closely at the use of vaping when it comes to smoking cessation and for taking an evidence-based, science-led approach.

    John Dunne, director-general, UKVIA

    “The government deserves huge praise for taking this bold decision to look more closely at the use of vaping when it comes to smoking cessation and for taking an evidence-based, science-led approach rather than the nonsensical anti-vaping, anti-harm reduction stance of some countries,” said John Dunne, Director General of the U.K. Vaping Industry Association.

    “This announcement by the Department for Health is just the latest in a long line of breakthroughs for those of us who for years have advocated vaping as the best and most effective method for people looking to quit smoking.”