Pressure is growing on United Kingdom’s government to be more active about reducing the harm of tobacco as news breaks that no licence applications have been made for an NHS e-cig.
United Kingdom’s government is coming under increasing pressure from its own MPs and ex-staffers to do more to promote vaping. The pressure carries added bite with the news that The Medicines and Healthcare Products Agency has announced it has not received a single application for a licence to be granted to a manufacturer to produce an electronic cigarette that can be prescribed by NHS doctors.
When did the applications for prescribable e-cigs open?
The Medicines and Healthcare Products Agency published its updated guidance for licence applications back in October. The guidance was hailed as simplifying the process so that doctors would be able to prescribe e-cigs as part of a smoking cessation programme.
The move was described as a world first by the Department of Health and Social Care, but the Agency recently said: “Since we published our updated guidance for licensing electronic cigarettes and other inhaled nicotine-containing products as medicines to support smoking cessation, there has been much interest from companies who wish to achieve regulatory approval…no new licence applications from the industry have yet been submitted.”
Why have no companies applied?
Dr Robert West is a specialist in tobacco harm reduction. The University College London academic has been responsible for many studies looking at vaping and coordinates the monthly collection of data about e-cig use that is used in the Smoking Toolkit Study.
He said the volume of information that firms are required to gather and the cost of submission is so prohibitive it rules out almost all businesses. Also, companies would have to share information, something that isn’t natural in a competitive market.
Isn’t it good companies have to provide evidence of safety?
Action on Smoking and Health’s chief executive, Deborah Arnott said that over 3.5 million people vape in Great Britain, for over ten years, and have been doing so with Medicines and Healthcare Products Agency registered products.
“If there were serious safety concerns about e-cigarettes currently on the market we would have expected the [Medicines and Healthcare Products Agency] yellow card monitoring system to have picked them up by now.”
So, what can be done?
Conservative MP Adam Afriyie is none too complimentary about the government’s current efforts, calling it a “scattergun approach”.
Importantly, he knocked the ambition for Britain to be smoke-free by 2030, saying “solutions already exist which can be actioned immediately”.
With Cancer Research UK saying the government is going to miss that target, with 2037 being more likely, Mr Afriyie calculates that this means there will be an extra “1.35 million potentially avoidable deaths”.
He wants the government to boost its efforts to promote vaping and combat the growing levels of misinformation about e-cigs.
Mark Oates used to work at Westminster before setting up the consumer group We Vape. He says: “It is surprising that politicians are having to scratch their heads when a low-cost, high impact solution is staring them in the face. The health benefits and savings that come from switching from smoking to vaping are clear.”
Mark points to the draconian advertising restrictions governing the vape industry.
While Britain may lead the world in the use of vaping to combat smoking disease and death, there is clearly some way to go and much to do – will our politicians have the will to put in the effort?