2016-06-07 21:08:17

ECigarettes Should Be Dealt with as Medicine and Prescribed by the NHS

The argument that the National Health Service (NHS) should be prescribing electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDs) as a medical alternative to cigarette smoking is currently buzzing around the vaping community. Experts found that electronic cigarettes can be 95% less harmful than analog cigarettes. Many see eye to eye on this, citing it as an excellent way to facilitate smoking cessation.

This includes Professor Ann McNeill* who works at King's College London, who authored a study on the matter. McNeill referred to vaping as something that could change everything--and truly help the majority of people stop smoking if they choose to vape. She states that in England, it could decrease the current death rate by smoking from 80,000 down to just 4,000.

The government’s chief medical officer, Dame Sally Davies, is cited as saying that the licensing of e cigarettes as medicine to promote smoking cessation would provide the public reassurance of their safety, quality, and efficacy to consumers by backing it with medical research, thus helping more people to quit.

However, even the British Medical Association, which has always been on the front lines when advocating the regulation of ecigs, has their concerns. Spokesman Dr. Ram Moorthy said that those in the medical field still have "significant concerns" about the unknown nature and quality of e-cigarettes, which may further delay the prescription of these electronic cigarettes.

Some, including Simon Clark, director of the Forest Smoking Group, insist that promoting e cigs as a government approved smoking cessation program neglects to consider that many people enjoy vaping in its own right and use e-cigs in a recreational way, meaning not just medicinally.

Even still, with all of the concerns arising, Anna Gilmore, director of the Tobacco Control Research Group at the University of Bath agrees that an e cigarette is much less likely to cause health concerns than their analog counterparts, but the long term effects are still unknown, which does cause hesitation.

Another thing that seems to be off putting is the fact that without regulation of these products, it is simply difficult to discern what exactly is in them. This makes the claim that ecigarettes are risk-free, as we cannot know that without knowing their true composition.

As such, many believe they should be regulated, but only as a stand-alone product, completely separate from the regulation of tobacco cigarettes, as they appear to be much safer with the nicotine isolated from the tobacco plant, which harbors many carcinogens when combusted.


What about the Children?

As analog cigarettes were seemingly marketed to children during the 50s and 60s, people are seeing a similar trend with the addition of appealing flavors to the market. As a result, many want to ban vaping altogether to completely eliminate advertisements that center around children. Times have changed, though, and advertisers are more careful about adding cartoon characters and other things that may attract minors. Nonetheless, this is a factor when determining whether or not to label the use of an electronic cigarette as medical.

In Wales, while many believe that e-cigarettes are a "gateway" for children to begin smoking if the e cig is an everyday item, health minister Mark Drakeford said the new Public Health Bill has achieved the balance between helping smokers cease smoking, while preventing kids from ever smoking in the first place by banning the use of them indoors where children may see them.

An analysis from an international band of scientists states that using an ecig is not something that non-smokers see regularly, much less those under 18; the study said that there was no evidence that the products encouraged young people to start smoking. However, teenagers in the UK who are considered to be at-risk viewed them as trendy, and therefore were more likely to experiment with them.

This raises concern by many, including Professor Mark Bellis*, as ecig mods contain nicotine--which clearly is a highly addictive drug--that may have bigger, longer lasting implications on children because their brains still developing.

Dr. John Middleton of the Faculty of Public Health said that nationwide regulation of ecigarettes is sorely needed. He feels that if we wait too long to decide if ecigs are a gateway to analog cigarettes, it will become a self-fulfilling prophecy. The tobacco industry will have already gotten the next generation of analog cigarette smokers.

So, will treating ecigs as medicine normalize them to the point that children will begin vaping, even though it is not good for them at that age? Will they steer clear of them for that reason? While it is clearly a great choice for adults, the studies being done need to determine the effects this decision may have on the nation’s children, and rightly so.


References: Professor Ann McNeill | BBC | Professor Mark Bellis