Pharmaceutical Society Head Stuck In Past

Posted 31st August 2017 by Dave Cross
Alex MacKinnon, director of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society in Scotland (RPS), has demanded a review of electronic cigarettes, in the latest issue of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society’s in-house magazine.

MacKinnon feels the evidence needs to be looked at and for there to be an improvement in quality control, but this stands at odds with the shift of opinion in the RPS as a body, and with other professionals.

MacKinnon has taken a relatively anti-vaping stand for a number of years, although his position is increasingly at odds with the wider British medical and public health communities. In 2014 he was advocating pharmacies did not stock any vape equipment at all.

He is quoted as saying: “We recognise individual pharmacies may sell e-cigarettes, but until there is a licensed product the RPS cannot support their sale in pharmacies. There are existing proven, safe, evidence-based products already available, which should be recommended to patients wanting to quit smoking.”

Back then; MacKinnon was pushing the regulated medically registered route as being the only viable option. Moreover, he claimed that the sales of any products in the meantime would undermine that as an end goal: “The involvement of community pharmacists and their staff in the sale of unlicensed e-cigarettes before then could provide an impression of legitimacy to patients that they are proven medicinal devices when that is not yet the case.”

Imagine the numbers of vapers who would still be smoking if such a position had won out across the UK.

Pure Eliquids

The current position of the RPS is: “The Royal Pharmaceutical Society believes that despite the safety concerns … and current lack of robust evidence on their efficacy there is a potential role for quality-assured e–cigarettes as a short term support to encourage tobacco smokers to reduce or quit their smoking habit, either as a stepping stone to licensed nicotine replacement therapy, or instead of, where other methods have failed.”

The majority of recent topics contained on the RPS’ vape debate page are more positive than negative, but still couched in negative terms and taking its lead from the likes of America’s Food & Drug Administration rather than Public Health England and the Royal College of Physicians.

MacKinnon concedes that their current policy, that focuses on discredited issues such normalisation, is currently being reviewed. But, he said, “We are still concerned that while e-cigarettes look as if they have a role in harm reduction, vaping can still lead to physiological addiction to nicotine and psychological addiction to vaping.”

Public Health England’s tobacco control expert, Martin Dockrell, rebuffed MacKinnon’s claims that vaping could act as a gateway to smoking: “We monitor closely the UK data on young people’s use of e-cigarettes, alongside the data on smoking. It is fairly common for young people to experiment with e-cigarettes, but regular use is rare and occurs almost entirely among current and ex-smokers.”

ASH’s Hazel Cheeseman pointed out the benefits to embracing vaping. Grounded in good science, she said: “For the UK, the evidence that we have is very clear that we do not have a large number of young people regularly using e-cigarettes. I would not see this as a priority in the UK. The need just does not seem to be there in the UK. The evidence we have to date shows that e-cigarettes are very much less harmful than smoking and there is growing evidence they are helpful in getting people to quit smoking.”

The Electronic Cigarette Company

Maybe MacKinnon and the RPS can pay more attention to our British experts rather than listening to fear-mongering coming from the States in future?

 Dave Cross
Article by Dave Cross
Freelance writer, physicist, karateka, dog walker