Hospitals should sell e-cigarettes and establish ‘vaping lounges’ for people to use on-site, says Public Health England (PHE).
The call comes amid recognition that e-cigarettes have been an incredibly useful tool for people to stop smoking. A recent review published by PHE suggests that more than 20,000 people a year are using the devices to help them quit, with successful cessation rates being at their highest ever level.
The same report said that e-cigarettes were ‘95% safer’ than smoking tobacco.
‘E-cigarettes have become the most popular quitting aid for smokers in Great Britain with three million regular users,’ said director of health improvement at PHE, Prof John Newton.
In an attempt to ‘maximise the potential benefits’ of e-cigarettes, PHE are recommending that hospitals sell them on the premises and set-up areas where patients can vape – this could even include private rooms for people who will be in hospital for a long stay.
PHE have said they would allow NHS GPs to prescribe the devices to patients, have urged government officials to enable e-cigarettes to be marketed as quit-smoking aids and have even called on employers to provide vaping areas at work.
Ann McNeill, professor of tobacco addiction at King’s College London, said: ‘We want stop-smoking practitioners and health professionals to support smokers who would like to use e-cigarettes to stop.’
Currently, prescribers cannot issue e-cigarettes to would-be quitters as the Medicines and Health Care Products Regulatory Authority (MHRA) has not licensed their use.
For Prof Newton: ‘Anything that the [Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency] MHRA can do to make it easier for manufacturers we think would be helpful.
‘Every minute someone is admitted to hospital from smoking, with around 79,000 deaths a year in England alone.’
‘Our new review reinforces the finding that vaping is a fraction of the risk of smoking, at least 95% less harmful, and of negligible risk to bystanders. Yet over half of smokers either falsely believe that vaping is as harmful as smoking or just don’t know.’
The report also revealed that less than 1 in 5 adults understand the causes of harm from smoking, and 40% of smokers have not tried an e-cigarette.
Given how effective they have been at helping people quit, and given their recent stagnating use, PHE is now trying to increase the up-take on e-cigarettes.
Deborah Arnott, chief executive of anti-tobacco charity ASH, said: ‘We hope this report will provide the reassurance needed to encourage the 40% of smokers who’ve failed to quit but never tried vaping to go ahead and switch.’