NHS e-cigarette prescriptions could encourage young non-smokers to start vaping, ministers have been warned.
The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has invited manufacturers to submit their products to go through the same regulatory approvals process as other medicines available via the health service.
It could lead to e-cigarettes being licensed and provided as a prescription medicine in England within 18 to 24 months, the Government has said.
But Lord Mackenzie of Framwellgate, a non-affiliated peer, questioned if by “encouraging and giving the green light” to e-cigarettes that it might “send a signal to youngsters who might think it’s cool to start inhaling foreign gases into lungs which aren’t designed for them”.
Health minister Lord Kamall replied: “He raises a very important concern about e-cigarettes.
“And in conversations I’ve had with the MHRA and others, at the moment looking at the evidence in the UK there is no evidence in the UK that young non-smokers are adopting or taking up smoking e-cigarettes.
“Most users of e-cigarettes are using it as a pathway away from cigarettes.”
Crossbencher peer Lord Vaux of Harrowden highlighted the different flavours and colourful packaging used on e-cigarette products, adding they are “clearly aimed at children”.
He said: “If we’re considering licencing e-cigarettes, could this also be an opportunity to tighten up the packaging and branding rules to ensure that that stops?”
Lord Kamall said “incentives to customers and flavours” are expected to be among the factors under consideration as part of the regulatory progress.
But Conservative peer Earl Cathcart said: “I used to smoke over 50 cigarettes a day but since 2014 I transferred to using e-cigarettes and I haven’t had a puff of tobacco since.
“And I’ve found my health and breathing so much better now so surely this is a very good thing, it should be encouraged.”
Lord Kamall also told peers it is hoped giving the “MHRA stamp of approval” to an e-cigarette product could encourage people to “buy it over the counter”.
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