E-cigarettes could become ‘medicines’ in the future

The fact that tobacco is injurious to health in any form has been an accepted, medically proven fact for a number of decades now. The myriad health risks related to tobacco usage in any form however, has failed to deter heavy users in spite of the best efforts of the healthcare industry. Now, in an effort to give tobacco users recourse to treatment that can rid them of their nicotine addiction, some leading health experts across the UK have been campaigning to get E-cigarettes on the NHS. While critics of the move have lambasted the proponents for what they see to be a tacit endorsement of “vaping”, and “re-normalizing” smoking, a majority of the public policy experts and healthcare professionals have welcomed the move as a whole, arguing, that tighter regulations will ensure safety and efficacy of the products.

Meanwhile, even as the debate rages, multiple e-cigarette manufacturers have already taken the first tentative steps towards getting their products sanctioned as “medicines” in order to be prescribed on the NHS. What is creating further furor however, is the fact, that one of the two aforementioned companies is a subsidiary of British American Tobacco, one of the largest tobacco vendors in the world. The other one is British a company called Nicolites, whose managing director claimed that his company was “well advanced in the product’s licensing” and expressed hope that by the end of the year, Nicolites would be able to cross the regulatory hurdles. Once classified as “medicine”, vendors of these products will be able to market and advertise them unlike their competitors who’re not medically approved. Those brands will then fall in the category of “consumer products”, the same as regular cigarettes, and will have to start carrying health warnings much the same way as cigarettes.

For the uninitiated, E-cigarettes (electronic cigarettes) are battery operated devices, which produce a feeling that’s similar to that of tobacco smoking. Successive studies have claimed that these electronic devices have proved more effective in fighting nicotine addiction than any other previously sanctioned product, like nicotine patches, gums, inhalers or mouth sprays, albeit, the health risks of electronic cigarettes are uncertain.

While the European Parliament has steadfastly refused to make medicinal licensing a must for e-cigarettes, the Medicines and Healthcare Regulatory Authority (MHRA) has tirelessly tried to convince manufacturers to voluntarily get licensing done, so that clear-cut rules regarding nicotine content and other specifics could be formulated to regulate the sector. Now that most of the bigger players in the industry are indeed voluntarily applying for licensing, it puts into sharp focus the diametrically opposite stance taken by the Electronic Cigarette Industry Trade Association (ECITA).

There are plenty of questions still unanswered regarding the new-age devices, which need to be addressed before anything concrete goes through, including potential health risks for adults and physiological influence on children. Hopefully, only after these factors are well researched and satisfactorily answered, will there be any progress in putting these devices on NHS.