England could be the first country in the world to prescribe medicinally licensed e-cigarettes to help reduce smoking rates.
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 tobacco smokers who wish to quit smoking.
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.
E-cigarettes contain nicotine and are not risk-free, but expert reviews from the UK and US have been clear that regulated e-cigarettes are less harmful than smoking. A medicinally licensed e-cigarette would have to pass even more rigorous safety checks.
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 % successfully quitting in 2020 -2021.
Health and Social Care Secretary, Sajid Javid said:
“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.
“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.”
The UK Government will soon publish a new Tobacco Control Plan which will set out the roadmap for achieving a smoke-free England by 2030.
Elements of this story have been shared under the Open Government license.