Soon doctors will be able to hand out e-cigarettes to smokers trying to quit. The move will reportedly cost the NHS around £20 per kit and £10 per week for each patient’s cartridges.
It is believed that Jane Ellison, public health minister, wanted to keep this news under wraps until it went ahead in 2016. According to Nigel Nelson from the Sunday People, a Whitehall source said the following:
“We didn’t want to make a song and dance about it because GPs would be overrun by people demanding it.
“But this is something we’ve been pushing for.”
The details of the e-cigarette plan were revealed by Ellison when Labour MP Steve McCabe directly asked her about it. She explained that the Government believe vaping is ‘significantly less harmful than smoking’ and that applications for medicinal licenses are ‘encouraged’.
In the long-term, making e-cigarettes available on the NHS is expected to bring savings to the health budget. Currently it is estimated that at least 2.6 million people use e-cigarettes which are assessed as 95 per cent safer than regular cigarettes. According to Public Health England (PHE) at least 76,000 lives could be saved every year if all smokers made the switch to e-cigarettes.
Pilot schemes in the North East of England have already started recommending electronic cigarettes through council smoking cessation services. Up until now, GPs have been unable to recommend them as they were not properly licensed. Instead they pointed patients to other nicotine replacement therapies like gum and patches.
The report has acknowledged that e-cigarettes come with a certain degree of controversy, with many rail companies now banning their use on train platforms.
We will watch this story to see how it develops – do you think e-cigarettes should be prescribed?