For the electronic cigarette industry, there is little doubt that using vape products and e-liquid cigarettes are a great way to help people stop tobacco smoking. But there are still some doctors who are a little uncertain about the benefits. Now the chief executive of Action on Smoking and Health (Ash) has said that licensing such products may help win over the medical profession.
Deborah Arnott from Ash spoke to MPs on the topic and said that making e-cigarettes available on prescription would offer reassurance for both doctors and patients that these products are less harmful than smoking. She acknowledged that there are a lot of misconceptions about vaping despite the evidence that it is ‘substantially less harmful’ than using traditional cigarettes.
Licensing products as medical quitting aids could then mean they were promoted and prescribed to smokers, she said in an interview with the Commons Science and Technology Committee.
Ms Arnott’s evidence to MPs followed an announcement from Public Health England (PHE) last month that there is ‘compelling evidence’ that e-cigarettes should be available on the NHS because they are instrumental in helping people stop smoking.
According to PHE, e-cigarettes are 95% less harmful than smoking and are already helping around 20,000 people quit smoking each year. This is why there are more companies than ever offering wholesale services as companies set up to help these individuals get the quality products that they need.
The advantage of licensing the products is that it can then be advertised as a quit smoking aid and can be promoted by the medical profession. There is already a consumer product regulatory system in place that hasn’t stopped the growing use of e-cigarettes as quit aids and this further step would simply make it easier for more people to see the benefits.
Ms Arnott added that the British Medical Association has said that such a move would be helpful and would reassure doctors that they were doing the right thing by recommending such products. There is a general feeling that if doctors could prescribe electronic cigarettes, they would feel more comfortable doing so.
It would also offer a cost-effective option for the NHS. Existing quit smoking products can be much more expensive than vaping liquids and e-cigarettes and are not always as effective at helping people quit.
The wider picture is that the public is already on board with the idea of using e-cigarettes to quit tobacco smoking. Over half of people surveyed by Ash correctly said that vaping is less harmful than smoking. Around one quarter still thought that vaping was as harmful or more harmful than cigarettes, showing that there is still some work to be done on educating people.
The Commons Science and Technology Committee is looking into the impact of electronic cigarettes on human health. They are also considering their effectiveness as a quit smoking tool and looking to the suitability of regulations regarding their use. We wait to hear the outcome of their investigation.
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