E-cigarettes could be prescribed on the NHS as study finds they 'help smokers quit'

E-cigarettes were more effective than nicotine gum and patches, but some experts warn they will 'renormalise' smoking, especially among the young

E-cigarettes are considerably more effective than over-the-counter treatments such as nicotine gum and patches at helping people to quit smoking, a new study has revealed.

One leading expert said it would be “perfectly reasonable” for the devices, which will soon be licensed as medicines, to be prescribed on the NHS.

Despite concerns that the recent rise in popularity of ‘e-cigs’ may be “re-normalising” smoking, Professor Robert West of University College London said that they had proven to be highly efficient quit-smoking aids, which could “substantially improve public health”.

Around a quarter of the four million people in England that attempted to quit smoking in the past year used e-cigarettes to help them.

The new study, published today by UCL researchers, looked at the success rate of nearly 6,000 quitters. Those who used e-cigarettes were 60 per cent more likely to report succeeding than either those who tried to quit with over-the-counter nicotine replacement therapies, or those who quit without help. E-cigarettes were found to be as effective as prescription medicines, but the group of smokers with the highest quitting success rate were those who used free NHS stop smoking services.

There has been a huge rise increase in the use of e-cigarettes in the past two to three years, with some estimates putting the number of UK users at more than two million.

The reaction to the rapid rise among governments and public health experts has been mixed. Some have heralded the devices, which contain nicotine but are far less harmful than an ordinary cigarette, as a powerful tool to drive down the number of smokers, and regulators are planning to licence them as medicines by 2016.

However, others have warned that they risk “renormalizing” smoking and encouraging young people to take up smoking. The Welsh Government is even considering a ban on the devices in public places – a position that is challenged by this latest research.


Professor West, director of tobacco studies at UCL and the study’s senior author said that once e-cigarettes had been approved the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), it would be “perfectly reasonable” for them to be prescribed on the NHS.

However, despite their benefits, there are concerns that the tobacco industry could still benefit from the rise of e-cigarettes. So far two companies are understood to have applied for a medicines licence for their e-cigarette products, one of them a subsidiary of British American Tobacco.

If they are successful in their MHRA application, and the products are approved for NHS prescription, it could, in theory, lead to NHS funds being paid to a tobacco manufacturer.

However, Professor West said that, overall, e-cigarettes were “not good news for the tobacco industry”.

“The tobacco industry would love them to go away…” he said. “They sell tobacco and do very well out of it and they would like to carry on doing that,” he said. “However, [they] recognise that e-cigarettes are a major factor and the question is: what are they going to do about it?”

“It’s such a complicated area…the tobacco industry has money coming out of their ears. For them it is petty cash to put in an MHRA application…for a small e-cigarette company that is innovating, the cost and the timescale involved is prohibitive. The challenge for the MHRA, and I know they’re looking at this, is to bring the cost and timescale for getting a medical licence down to a point where the medium-sized companies doing the innovating can take part.”

Professor West added that the proposed Welsh ban on ‘vaping’ in public places on the basis that it might be ‘re-normalising’ smoking among young people was “not borne out by the evidence”.

A Welsh Government spokesperson said that officials were “looking at the options” and that the proposals recognised the potential public health benefits of e-cigarettes.

Martin Dockrell, head of Public Health England’s (PHE) tobacco control programme said that e-cigarettes represented a public health “opportunity” but said they were not completely free of risk.

“PHE believe e-cigarettes need to be regulated to ensure they deliver nicotine effectively, minimise the potential for harm, and are marketed only to adults as a replacement for smoking,” he said.

Voices
voices
News
President Obama, one of the more enthusiastic users of the fist bump
newsBumping fists rather than shaking hands could reduce the spread of infectious diseases, it is claimed
Life and Style
Upright, everything’s all right (to a point): remaining on one’s feet has its health benefits – though in moderation
HealthIf sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
News
newsHad asteroid hit earlier or later in history, the creatures might have survived, say scientists
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebookA wonderful selection of salads, starters and mains featuring venison, grouse and other game
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Griffin holds forth in The Simpsons Family Guy crossover episode
arts + ents
Sport
Laura Trott with her gold
Commonwealth GamesJust 48 hours earlier cyclist was under the care of a doctor
Arts and Entertainment
Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman
arts + entsFilmmaker posted a picture of Israeli actress Gal Gadot on Twitter
News
Bryan had a bracelet given to him by his late father stolen during the raid
people
Arts and Entertainment
Chris Pratt stars in Guardians of the Galaxy
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Pedro Pascal gives a weird look at the camera in the blooper reel
arts + entsPrince Oberyn nearly sets himself on fire with a flaming torch
News
Danny Nickerson, 6, has received 15,000 cards and presents from well-wishers around the world
newsDanny loves to see his name on paper, so his mother put out a request for cards - it went viral
Sport
France striker Loic Remy
sportThe QPR striker flew to Boston earlier in the week to complete deal
News
Orville and Keith Harris. He covered up his condition by getting people to read out scripts to him
People
Arts and Entertainment
Zoe Saldana stars in this summer's big hope Guardians of the Galaxy
filmHollywood's summer blockbusters are no longer money-spinners
Arts and Entertainment
O'Shaughnessy pictured at the Unicorn Theatre in London
tvFiona O'Shaughnessy explains where she ends and her strange and wonderful character begins
Life and Style
Workers in Seattle are paid 100 times as much as workers in Bangladesh
fashionSeattle company lets customers create their own clothes, then click 'buy' and wait for delivery
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Gadgets & Tech

    Data Analyst

    £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A highly reputable software house is looking ...

    Systems Manager - Dynamics AX

    £65000 - £75000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: The client is a...

    Service Delivery Manager (Software Development, Testing)

    £40000 - £45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A well-established software house ba...

    SSIS/ORACLE DBA

    £400 - £401 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: SSIS Administrat...

    Day In a Page

    A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

    A new Russian revolution

    Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
    Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

    Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

    The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
    Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

    Standing my ground

    If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

    Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

    Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
    Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

    Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

    The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
    The man who dared to go on holiday

    The man who dared to go on holiday

    New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

    Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

    For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
    The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

    The Guest List 2014

    Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
    Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

    Jokes on Hollywood

    With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
    It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

    It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

    Voted for by the British public, the artworks on Art Everywhere posters may be the only place where they can be seen
    Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

    Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

    Blanche Marvin reveals how Tennessee Williams used her name and an off-the-cuff remark to create an iconic character
    Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

    Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

    Websites offering your ebooks for nothing is only the latest disrespect the modern writer is subjected to, says DJ Taylor
    Edinburgh Fringe 2014: The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee

    Edinburgh Fringe 2014

    The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee
    Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

    Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

    The woman stepping down as chair of the Heritage Lottery Fund is worried