England could become the first country in the world to prescribe electronic cigarettes as an approved method for smoking cessation.
Electronic cigarettes may soon be prescribed by doctors in the National Health Service (NHS) to help smokers quit smoking, as part of the radical plans of the Ministry of Health to make England a smoke-free country by 2030.
"The UK continues to be a global leader in healthcare, whether it is the lifesaving COVID-19 vaccine or innovative public health measures that reduce the risk of serious illness for people," said Health Secretary Sajid Javid.
The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has published the updated guidance that paves the way for the prescription of electronic cigarettes to smokers who want to quit smoking and turn to vaping, the British government announced on Friday, October 29, 2021.
Smoking in England is indeed one of the biggest health problems, with approximately 64,000 people dying each year due to smoking. According to recent data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), 14.1% of adults, or nearly 7 million people, in the United Kingdom are smokers. This percentage has been declining in recent years, unlike the percentage of e-cigarette users.
It is estimated that over 3.5 million people use electronic cigarettes, making it the most popular choice for former smokers as a transitional stage in their efforts to quit smoking. Fewer people now choose other methods such as patches and nicotine gum.
From 2020 to 2021, the success rate of smokers who used electronic cigarettes to overcome their addiction with the support of the UK's Local Stop Smoking Services reached 68%, one of the highest success rates of all time.
The British government wants to boost this trend.
According to the Department of Health of England, while electronic cigarettes do not produce tar or carbon monoxide—two of the most harmful elements in cigarette smoke—"the liquid and vapor contain certain potentially harmful chemicals also found in cigarette smoke, but at much lower levels."
"Electronic cigarettes contain nicotine and are not without risk, but reports from experts and scientists from the UK and the US have shown that electronic cigarettes, especially those regulated by legislation, are less harmful than smoking," the government stated.
Health Secretary Sajid Javid expressed optimism that "prescribed electronic cigarettes have the potential to reduce smoking rates across the country."
Furthermore, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has already called on companies to submit applications to have their products included on the NHS list.
Health Secretary of the UK, Sajid Javid