Wednesday, 21 October 2015

NHS smoke cessation services impacted by electronic cigarettes

Despite the fact that regulations do not allow electronic cigarettes and other vaping devices to be used as smoke cessation aids, there is evidence to suggest they are having a major impact upon NHS quit smoking services. A recent report confirmed that the number of products dispatched by the NHS to help people quit smoking fell by over 30% in the 2014/15 financial year compared to the previous period. This is the second consecutive year of reduced activity within the NHS quit smoking service. So, is this all down to electronic cigarettes?

Smoke cessation aids

While the number of people turning to the NHS smoke cessation service for assistance has fallen significantly the NHS still dispatched over 370,000 smoke cessation items last year. Even though this is still an impressive figure it was 170,000 less than the 2013/14 financial year. Indeed the value of these items fell to just over £8 million which was a drop of more than £4.1 million on the previous period. There is an argument to suggest that, as electronic cigarettes are not available on prescription, the £4.1 million reduced expenditure will release much-needed funds to reinvest elsewhere in the NHS.

It was also interesting to learn that since 2012 in Scotland alone there has been a 39% fall in the number of people approaching the NHS smoke cessation service. When you consider the number of people attempting to reduce their tobacco intake this in itself is perhaps a surprising statistic?

Is this all down to electronic cigarettes?

Up until about six months ago there were very few high-profile NHS employees willing to encourage the use of electronic cigarettes as a means of reducing tobacco intake. Indeed, while the political environment is still moderately anti-electronic cigarettes there has even been some progress in this particular area. It is evident that more people in prominent positions within the NHS are now happy to talk about electronic cigarettes and the potential benefits for those smoking tobacco cigarettes.

Only a few weeks ago the interesting statistic that electronic cigarettes are potentially 95% less harmful than their tobacco counterparts was repeated by a prominent member of the healthcare industry. While this statistic is not new to those within the vaping community it is the first time that it has been openly discussed in the general press. So, is there a changing tide in favour of electronic cigarettes and the vaping industry?

Can we expect electronic cigarettes on prescription?

The last few weeks have seen more supportive comments from the NHS than at any time in the history of electronic cigarettes. There is therefore a growing suspicion, bearing in mind the reduced need for traditional NHS smoke cessation services, that the UK NHS may well be considering offering electronic cigarettes on prescription.

For some time now employees have complained that they are unable to even mention electronic cigarettes to patients looking to reduce their tobacco cigarette intake. We can only speculate as to why this changing tide seems to have occurred although no doubt it will be a mixture of potential tax revenue for the government in years to come and the fact that the vaping community continues to grow.


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