It’s not the first time we’ve covered the possibility of e-cigarettes on NHS prescriptions, however the mainstream media seems to think this a new ‘big idea’.
And, whilst on paper it all sounds well and good, as you will see, I still have a few reservations, especially taking into consideration the staggering cost and sheer amount of red tape any company would have to surmount.
But hey, the good news is at least the UK Government is continuing to green light e-cigarettes as a 95%+ safer option to smoking.
And as we get closer to the anti-vaping WHO’s COP9 meeting, where it’s expected all things vape will continue to be demonized, the timing of this new announcement is interesting.
So where’s this latest media story come from?
E-cigarettes On NHS Prescriptions – ‘Evoking’ the Past
Truth be told, and as I’ve said, it’s hardly new and indeed vape manufacturers have been able to submit vape devices for ‘medicinal use’ since pretty much the moment they arrived on the scene.
It was back in 2015 the very first vape kit went through this process and that was the e-VOKE – a follow up to the company’s Nicorette style nicotine inhaler the VOKE.
Sure it passed through the hugely expensive and convoluted red tape that is the UK medicines regulatory authority, the MHRA – it never made it to market – or to NHS prescription pads.
One reason was the cost, and given the e-VOKE was backed by British American Tobacco (BAT), this should raise alarm bells for any company fancying a shot at the ‘big prize’…
If a Big Tobacco company with its seemingly endless stream of cash and research labs can’t make the numbers work, then it’s doubtful anyone can.
On the flip side of that comes the crazy idea that e-cigarettes on NHS prescriptions would/could be owned by Big Tobacco.
The NHS and Big Tobacco working hand in hand would, shall we say, be very interesting and probably open up a huge can of ethical worms to say the least!
Time is also of the essence too given it would take many years from the drawing board to prescription pads and as we know the vape industry is fast paced and changing pretty much weekly.
Any device designed now, would literally be years out of date before it made it to smokers looking to quit.
Yeah, get me putting a damper on things lol.
What I will say once again is, this is a clear signal from the UK Government that it, in principle, backs vaping as a 95%+ safer alternative to smoking.
So how come the mainstream media is splashing this story on its front pages all of a sudden, and what does Health Secretary Sajid Javid MP have to say?
E-cigarettes On NHS Prescriptions – UK Government Speaks
It seems Javid has woken up to the massive socioeconomic divide between the rich and the poor in society and the huge gap between the two when it comes to smoking rates.
The UK Government’s own statistics shows:
A person’s likelihood of smoking increased in line with the level of deprivation in their neighbourhood, new analysis reveals.
People living in the most deprived areas of England were more than four times more likely to smoke in 2016 than those living in the least deprived areas.
Four times more likely to smoke if you’re unemployed or on a low wage is quite shocking to say the least.
However you could argue given the cost of smoking compared to vaping, smokers can easily afford to buy themselves a cheap and cheerful pod kit with proper vape juice – that actually works…
You could counter that argument with the staggering cost to the NHS for treating smoking related diseases, and to the rest of the country’s coffers.
That comes out at a whopping £12.6 billion per year…sobering statistics.
So the cynic could say this is an exercise in the bottom line to an apparent under-pressure NHS, rather than a caring side to the UK Government…
Unveiling the not so new big idea, Javid said:
This country continues to be a global leader on healthcare, whether it’s our Covid-19 vaccine rollout 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.
Ummm…not the place to discuss the opening paragraph lol…
MHRA chief executive Dr June Raine said:
The guidance we have published today is a strong first step towards availability of safe and effective licensed e-cigarette products.
It isn’t really as I’ve explained, and hey, there’s that word that gets this old reporter’s nose wrinkling…licensed…
Licences are a cute way of saying this is gonna cost you…and wait a sec’, I thought we already had “safe and effective
licensed e-cigarette products…”
That is after all what we’ve been vaping on this past decade plus…and what the UK Government appears to be backing…
But remember, a ‘licenced vape product‘ would mean money to the government, not only that, would that mean so called Big Vape products from the likes of Aspire, SMOK and the rest would get ‘second billing’?
Vaping Is Empowerment
Yeah again I’m putting a damper on things, but as I said in my article back in 2018, I still have my reservations.
One of the key points I made back then is ’empowerment’ and I came to the same conclusion as Independent British Vape Trade Association chief executive Gillian Golden, who said at the time:
The experience of IBVTA members across the UK is that the smokers who do the best in terms of cutting down or switching completely are the smokers who take personal responsibility for their own start-up costs.
They feel empowered because they have done it themselves and are therefore more likely to persevere with vaping.
Unlike traditional cessation methods, vaping is empowering.
It represents a market-based, user driven, public health insurgency.
That is why it is so successful.
No taxpayers’ money has been spent, yet smokers are stopping, switching, and cutting down through the use of vape products.
In other words, you’re more likely to persevere if you’ve used your own cash to buy the vape kit and juice – and yes I know not all folks get free prescriptions.
Advocates and the Vape Industry Welcomes the News
Social media lit up last night when the news that e-cigarettes on NHS prescriptions could be in the pipeline.
Many vape advocates from outside the UK welcomed the news.
Brilliant news from @DHSCgovuk that #ecigs could soon be prescribed to #smokers to help them #QuitSMOKING. Yet another breakthrough for public health protection and harm reduction. Read full response here https://t.co/MgCHUqNMGr
— UKVIA (@Vaping_Industry) October 28, 2021
Closer to home, and as you can see from its tweet, the UK Vaping Industry Association [UKVIA] was one of the first to back the idea.
John Dunne, Director General of the UKVIA, said:
The government deserves huge praise for taking this bold decision to look more closely at the use of vaping when it comes to smoking cessation and for taking an evidence-based, science-led approach rather than the nonsensical anti-vaping, anti-harm reduction stance of some countries.
This announcement by the Department for Health is just the latest in a long line of breakthroughs for those of us who for years have advocated vaping as the best and most effective method for people looking to quit smoking.
There is a good case too for NHS and other healthcare professionals to take a lead in helping their patients to use e-cigarettes to quit smoking, and we have repeatedly called on the Government to make access to vaping much more accessible through smoking cessation services.
However, it is not simply a case of giving vaping products to smokers and sending them off, which is why we have just launched a campaign to engage with every NHS trust in the UK to offer help and guidance on how vaping can be used in the best way possible to help people in their quit journeys.
I totally agree the NHS should be working more closely with the UK vaping industry – I just don’t like this licenced vape product idea.
We’ve seen some fantastic schemes where local stop smoking services have teamed up with local vape shops working hand in hand to help smokers make the switch.
And of course many vape shops, including the huge VPZ chain, are now offering in house vape clinics.
Those are the kind of win win partnerships I’d like to see, and not a money grab from multinational companies led by Big Tobacco cashing in.
Despite all my reservations, I guess anything Government backed and vape related that helps smokers quit has to be welcomed.
Last word to pro-vaping advocate Professor Peter Hajek, director of the tobacco dependence research unit at Queen Mary University of London, who said:
Smokers are more likely to benefit from e-cigarettes if they can select flavours, strengths and products that they like, rather than being limited to whatever becomes licensed.
It also does not seem necessary for the NHS to pay for something that smokers are happy to buy themselves.
Overall, it would seem easier to just recommend existing products which are well regulated by consumer protection regulations.
As always he’s spot on and I only found his quote after almost finishing this piece – so we’re on the same wavelength!
So…the big question…
What are your thoughts on e-cigarettes on NHS prescriptions?
Good idea or bad idea?
Please let me know in the comments below!