Bloomberg — England could become the first country in the world to prescribe e-cigarettes to people who want to quit smoking, which would be a boon for an industry that is facing regulatory pressure in the U.S.
Makers of e-cigarettes can submit their products to the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency and undergo the same approval process as other medicines available on the NHS, the government said Friday.
The move underlines the U.K.’s embrace of vaping as a tool to help consumers quit smoking combustible cigarettes. While anti-tobacco groups argue that the industry is trying to keep consumers hooked on nicotine, Public Health England has pointed to a report that showed vaping worked better than nicotine replacement therapy, such as patches or chewing gums, and it deems smoking traditional cigarettes to be more harmful.
In the U.S., the Food and Drug Administration earlier this month gave the green light for British American Tobacco Plc’s e-cigarette Vuse and its tobacco-flavored pods, the first major e-cigarette products cleared in a sweeping review of whether millions of cigarette alternatives have a public-health benefit.
“E-cigarettes contain nicotine and are not risk-free, but expert reviews from the U.K. and the U.S. have been clear that the regulated e-cigarettes are less harmful than smoking,” the English healthcare department said. “A medicinally licensed e-cigarette would have to pass even more rigorous safety checks.”
(Michael R. Bloomberg, founder and majority owner of Bloomberg News parent Bloomberg LP, has been a longtime champion of tobacco control efforts and has campaigned and given money in support of a U.S. ban on flavored e-cigarettes and tobacco.)