E-cigarettes should be available on prescription, according to Public Health England (PHE). The agency wants them to be prescribed on the NHS within the next few years because of how successful they have been in helping people give up smoking.

The news comes as PHE publishes its new independent expert evidence review of e-cigarettes, which advises anyone struggling to quit smoking to try switching to an e-cigarette and get professional help.

An update of PHE's 2015 report, the update covers e-cigarette use among young people and adults, public attitudes, the impact on quitting smoking, an update on risks to health and the role of nicotine. It also reviews heated tobacco products.

PHE now advises anyone who has struggled to quit smoking try switching to an e-cigarette and get professional help. It also states that the greatest quit success is among those who combine using an e-cigarette with support from a local stop smoking service.

PSNC has highlighted that the review may be of use in helping support pharmacy teams in conversations with patients around the use of e-cigarettes.

Commenting on the new review, a spokesperson for the National Pharmacy Association said: “The NPA welcomes the PHE evidence review of e-cigarettes and its statement that anyone who has struggled to quit smoking should try switching to an e-cigarette and get professional help.

“It is now clear that, on the basis of current evidence, e-cigarettes have a legitimate place in smoking cessation, underpinned by professional advice.  It is useful to have a range of options in the stop smoking ‘toolkit’, because every person responds differently to treatment and the stop smoking journey is very personal. 

“Unlike corner shops and specialist vape stores, pharmacies are regulated by healthcare agencies and staff are qualified to give advice on all aspects of smoking related health, as well as identify additional health care needs...The PHE evidence review will help pharmacists provide up to date advice to people wishing to use e-cigarettes as part of their quit smoking journey. It will also help pharmacies decide whether or not to stock e-cigarettes for sale. Many more pharmacies will now feel confident to supply these products.”

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