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PHE Wants E-Cigarettes to be Sold by Prescription

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Within the next few years, Public Health England wants e-cigarettes to be sold only by prescription.  After an independent review of the latest evidence, published by the agency, at least 20,000 people a year are quitting with help from e-cigarettes.

Vaping is at least 95 percent less harmful than smoking, the report said. With the new policy, PHE is in favor of hospitals selling e-cigarettes and even designating areas where people can vape as well as in private rooms for patients on long hospital stays, BBC reported.

Medicinal license

The PHE also wants to create an easier route for manufacturers of e-cigarettes to secure a medicinal license. John Newton, the health improvement director of PHE, said that anything that the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency can do to make it easier for makers of e-cigarettes would be helpful.

He noted that almost half of cigarette smokers have never tried an e-cigarette. The hesitation possibly comes from the view that it could be risky, but Newton said it is not based on evidence.

The real harm is in smoking, Ann McNeil, a professor of tobacco addiction at King’s College London, said. She pointed out that smokers of tobacco cigarette inhale a lethal mix of 7,000 smoke constituents; 70 of it are known to cause cancer. In e-cigarettes, the constituents in tobacco smoke that cause the harms are either absent or at much lower levels. McNeil said that the authorities are confident that e-cigarettes are substantially less harmful than cigarette smoking.

She stressed that the toxic smoke is the culprit. It is the overwhelming cause of all the tobacco-related disease and death.

Smoking declines at an encouraging rate

Besides e-cigarette helping people quit smoking tobacco cigarettes, the study also said e-cigarettes are not leading young people into smoking. Less than one percent of the youth who have never smoked used e-cigarettes regularly. At the same time, the number of young people smoking continues to go down at an encouraging rate.

Because of e-cigarettes, it has helped 57,000 smokers a year quit using tobacco cigarettes, the report made by experts from King’s College London, the UK Center for Tobacco and Alcohol Studies, the University of Stirling, and Cancer Research UK, said.

Smoking kills up to two in three smokers, but half of tobacco cigarette smokers believe that e-cigarettes are as dangerous as tobacco cigarette smoking, the officials said, The Telegraph reported. Newton stressed that every minute a person is admitted to the hospital from smoking. In England alone, there are around 79,000 deaths a year due to smoking.

Even all employers would be encouraged to allocate rooms for workers to use e-cigarettes as a means to give up tobacco cigarette smoking. While Newton favors allowing vaping around workplaces, it should not be actually at the employee’s desk, Metro reported.

Preggy women too

Also to be encouraged to shift to e-cigarettes are pregnant women. They should never be discouraged from vaping if the other option is to continue using tobacco cigarettes, Linda Bauld, an author of the study, said. She added that the PHE cannot wait three years for the trial, the priority is for pregnant women to stop smoking tobacco cigarettes now.

However, not everyone agrees with the suggestion to allow vaping in hospitals. Joyce Robins, from Patient Concern, noted that as it is, hospitals are packed. A lot of hospitals do not have an inch to spare with too many patients now being treated in corridors. Any spare room available should be used to treat patients and not turned into vaping areas, Robins said.

Martin Dockrell, the tobacco control lead for PHE, said he does not find any reason why hospitals should not designate some indoor areas where patients and visitors can vape. But it is another matter for tobacco smoking. He said that smoking should be treated differently than vaping.

But for patients in single rooms, they will not cause any annoyance to anybody else by the vapor from their e-cigarettes. But the ban on tobacco cigarette smoking all over the hospital remains, Dockrell said. While there is no evidence that vaping is harmful, he acknowledges that it could be annoying for some people.

E-cigarette users in Britain now number 3 million. They represent six percent of the country’s adult population.

However, some UK studies with animals have suggested there could be health risks also with e-cigarettes. But PHE leaders said that nicotine is not harmful and tests suggested that when mice are pumped with abnormally high doses, humans are not exposed to those high doses.

There were previous plans to prescribe e-cigarettes, but it collapsed after the only product licensed for medical use, the eVoke, was abandoned. Approval was given to eVoke two years ago, but British American Tobacco, the holder of the medical license for the gadget, said production difficulties makes it unlikely for the device to be manufactured and sold commercially.

[메디컬리포트=Vittorio Hernandez 기자]

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