England could be the first to prescribe e-cigarettes to tackle disparities in smoking rates


E-cigarettes could be prescribed by the NHS in England to help people quit smoking tobacco products, as Health and Welfare Secretary Sajid Javid hailed the latest step forward in the authorization process manufacturers.

The Medicines and Health Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) is issuing updated guidelines that pave the way for prescribing medically licensed e-cigarette products to tobacco smokers who wish to quit.

Manufacturers can contact the MHRA to submit their products to the same regulatory approval process as other drugs available on the health service.

This could mean that England would become 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. The fact remains that non-smokers and children are strongly discouraged from using e-cigarettes.

E-cigarettes contain nicotine and are not without risk, but expert reviews from the UK and US have clearly indicated that regulated e-cigarettes are less harmful than smoking. A medically licensed electronic cigarette would have to pass even more rigorous security checks.

Smoking remains the leading preventable cause of premature death and although rates are at record highs in the UK, 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%) and Kingston upon Hull (22.2%) being the polar opposite of rates in wealthier areas such as Richmond upon Thames (8%).

E-cigarettes were the most popular aid used by smokers trying to quit in England in 2020. E-cigarettes were found to be very effective in helping those trying to quit, with 27.2% of smokers reporting use them versus 18.2% who use nicotine replacement. therapeutic products such as patches and gums.

Some of the highest success rates of those trying to quit smoking are found among people using an e-cigarette to get rid of their addiction alongside local smoking cessation services, with up to 68% d ‘successful stops in 2020 -2021.

Health and Social Affairs Secretary Sajid Javid said:

This country continues to be a global leader in healthcare, whether it’s the deployment of our life-saving COVID-19 vaccine or our innovative public health measures reducing the risk of serious illness.

Opening the door to an NHS-prescribed licensed e-cigarette has the potential to tackle the sharp disparities in smoking rates across the country, helping people quit smoking wherever they live and regardless of their location. origin.”

Nearly 64,000 people died of smoking in England in 2019 and the Office for Health Improvement and Disparities (OHID) supports efforts to improve public health and ensure communities across the country have equal health outcomes .

Reducing health disparities – including in smoking rates – and keeping people healthier longer is good for the individual, families, society, the economy and the NHS. To achieve this global ambition, OHID will work collaboratively at national, regional and local levels as well as with the NHS, universities, the third sector, scientists, researchers and industry.

The government will soon release a new tobacco control plan that will set out the roadmap for achieving a smoke-free England by 2030.

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