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NHS Ecigs

Consternation over ecigs on the NHS proposals

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Last year we covered the news that British American Tobacco (BAT) became the first company to achieve approval from the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA). It meant that the e-Voke could be classified and sold As a medicine – and be prescribed for NHS patients looking to quit. Predictably, it has created rumblings.

With the Tobacco Products Directive (TPD) likely to force many devices from the market this gives BAT a clean run at becoming the market leader overnight. Some see the granting of approval to them as an indication of shady dealings. “The Tory Party’s disgraceful links to big tobacco firms are well known, and so this decision needs to be looked at very closely,” said Anna Turley MP.

Top Tory Ken Clarke MP, well known for his love of smoking, famously sat on the board of BAT for ten years. Priti Patel, Conservative MP for Witham, previously worked on behalf of BAT in her role at the Weber Shandwick public relations agency – responsible for lobbying government ministers for them. And then there’s the likes of Chris Chope, barrister and Tory MP for Christchurch, who accepted grace and favours from the tobacco company.

It isn’t just the links that BAT share with the government that rings alarm bells. With no comparable registered product, pharmaceutical companies are at a disadvantage and so it isn’t surprising that some doctors are speaking out.

Tim Ballard, of the Royal College of General Practitioners, thinks the government and the MHRA ought to hold back from prescribing ecigs until “there is clear evidence of their safety”.

Similarly, Andrew Thomson (practising doctor and council member of British Medical Association Scotland) warned: “Further research is needed to learn more about the long-term effects of electronic cigarettes to uncover whether they are an effective and safe way of reducing tobacco harm.”

We know that there’s a strong difference between something being 100% safe and ecigs being “safer” than smoking. The Public Health England report stated that vaping is 95% safer than the traditional alternative. It is something ex-doctor Jean Turner recognises. Stating that were she still practicing she’d have no problem prescribing them, she added: “If you spend money now helping people getting off cigarettes, it will save them a lot of misery in the long term and save the NHS money treating people with vascular and lung disease.”

Paul Myers, former chairman of the Royal College of General Practitioners and GP near Wrexham, said: “We know that e-cigarettes are effective in reducing smoking. Some people, if they use e-cigarettes, do manage to get themselves off tobacco. As part of a package of care to help people get, yes, I think some of us would be prepared to prescribe them. But what we wouldn’t do is to prescribe them without a consultation and establishing that the people want to try and stop smoking.”

Dave Cross avatar

Dave Cross

Journalist at POTV
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Dave is a freelance writer; with articles on music, motorbikes, football, pop-science, vaping and tobacco harm reduction in Sounds, Melody Maker, UBG, AWoL, Bike, When Saturday Comes, Vape News Magazine, and syndicated across the Johnston Press group. He was published in an anthology of “Greatest Football Writing”, but still believes this was a mistake. Dave contributes sketches to comedy shows and used to co-host a radio sketch show. He’s worked with numerous vape companies to develop content for their websites.

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