A groundbreaking decision by the regulatory agency update the guidance on electronic cigarettes and accept the devices as an effective tool to curb the smoking rate in the country.
The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency published today the guidelines manufacturers must attain to submit products for approval. With the new rules, doctors could now decide if patients could benefit from a prescription.
According to the new medical device regulation, the products intended to administer a medicinal product may be regulated as either medical devices or as medicinal products, depending on the presentation and use of the individual product.
Previously, manufacturers must be applied for a medical license for e-cigarette products.
While Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) estimated the number of adult vapers in Great Britain is 3.6 million- including 2.4 million ex-smokers- smoking remains the leading preventable cause of premature death, with almost 64,000 people dying from smoking in England in 2019 and 6.1 million still smoke conventional cigarettes.
There are also large differences across the country, with very high smoking rates in Blackpool (23.4 percent) and Kingston upon Hull (22.2 percent) which drop to 8% in wealthier areas such as Richmond upon Thames.
Prof Linda Bauld, the Bruce and John Usher chair in public health at the University of Edinburgh, said to “The Guardian” it was “excellent news” because “smokers have concerns about safety and misperceptions about the relative risks of e-cigarettes compared with tobacco. For some, the cost is also perceived as a barrier. The option of having approved devices that could be prescribed would reassure smokers about relative risks and also assist in reaching those least able to afford e-cigarettes.”
Health Secretary Sajid Javid also said: “This country continues to be a global leader on healthcare, particularly for 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 to stop smoking wherever they live and whatever their background.”
A decision that may have repercussions beyond the United Kingdom.
Many commentators believe this could change the perception the World Health Organisation (WHO) and its agencies had so far towards safer nicotine delivery products. Being sponsored by Big Tobacco is often the main critique moved by international health agencies to supporters of Tobacco Harm Reduction worldwide.
Since the United Kingdom is the least country influenced by the Tobacco industry, the adoption of e-cigarettes could finally help to reach an agreement towards the parties and finally convince international regulation bodies of the effectiveness of ecigs.
The NHS states e-cigarettes are not completely risk-free because “the liquid and vapour contain some potentially harmful chemicals also found in cigarette smoke. However, expert reviews and scientific data agreed that regulated e-cigarettes are less harmful than smoking.
Harry Shapiro, an international tobacco expert and leading advocate for Tobacco Harm Reduction in the UK, commented with a tweet: “Many questions remain. But potentially a huge step in convincing doctors and current smokers around the world about the benefits of switching. And another smack in the nose for WHO festering on the wrong side of science.”
Prof. Riccardo Polosa – one of the most cited researchers of the world in the field of vaping science – commented “as a scientist dedicated to a world without cigarette smoke, I’m glad to learn about this pioneering step towards wider acceptance and adoption of safer combustion-free nicotine products for total cigarette substitution. This positive development in the fight against smoking should be followed globally by other health authorities.”
Worldwide 1.3 billion people still smoke conventional cigarettes, eight million die each year from cigarette smoking-related diseases. The social and financial burden for nations is very high both for the national health care and the intrinsic outcomes tobacco consumption has for the citizens.
The habit of smoking continues to claim victims due to direct and indirect exposure to conventional cigarettes, while the adoption of alternatives that could mitigate and, in part, resolve the issue remains elusive.