It hasn’t been welcomed by everyone, but the new proposal to regulate e-cigarettes seems about the best available response to a thorny problem.
ASH Scotland therefore joins the majority of the public health community in believing the decision by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency to licence e-cigarettes is a sensible and welcome move.
Vapers, as fans of e-cigs are known, will be able to continue their alternative nicotine habit, albeit in a more regulated market.
The MHRA intends to regulate electronic cigarettes as medicines from 2016, but that’s not to say they will disappear off the shelves or require a prescription before a vaper can power up his or her e-cig. They will still be available in shops like their already-regulated cousins such as nicotine gum and patches.
But, with the new regulation, they will be tested and approved for use under the strict rules for medicines. Seems like a good move to us.
Especially as that will also allow the authorities to keep tabs on and limit how electronic cigarettes are being advertised – and whether they are being promoted to children.
Currently, there are glamorous ads for them that hark back to the bad old days of tobacco promotions.
They come in a range of flavours – from roast chicken and even tobacco to vanilla, cherry and bubblegum. That could obviously be an enticement to children.
We want to achieve the right balance between helping smokers move away from tobacco and protecting the next generation from commercial companies seeking a market for addictive products.
But we are seeing a growing trend for tobacco companies buying up e-cig companies and technologies. The tobacco industry has a long record of prioritising increased profits over reduced harm. We’re concerned over their involvement in this field.
Electronic cigarettes should be a lifeline for smokers, not a back door for tobacco companies to target children. Regulation is the right option.
We believe that e-cigarettes and other nicotine replacement products have a role to play in helping smokers and welcome this approach rather than banning them.
Any nicotine-containing device should be taken on its own merits. If it is truly effective in helping smokers, then it should be made available to them.
However, we are concerned at the long lead-in time before implementing regulation for electronic cigarettes.
What will happen over the intervening three years to ensure the quality and consistency of the devices?
And what will happen to tackle the capacity for promotion to children and other new markets, which are already a worry?