E-cigarettes have been included for the first time in official NHS (National Health Service) Scotland guidance aimed at helping smokers quit their habit, according to a story by Lyndsay Buckland for The Scotsman.
The new advice is said to recognize the increased popularity of these devices among people wishing to cut down their use of more harmful tobacco products.
It says that while those using NHS smoking cessation services should be strongly encouraged to adopt licensed nicotine replacement therapy (NRT), such as patches and gum, those wanting to use e-cigarettes should not be told to stop if there was a risk they would return to tobacco.
Buckland said that it was believed that in the past some services had turned away those wanting to use e-cigarettes as part of their attempts to quit smoking, meaning they were denied other forms of support offered by the NHS, such as group counselling.
E-cigarettes currently have to meet consumer-product regulations but, under rules agreed by the European Parliament, from 2016 those products for which health claims are made will have to be regulated as medicines, while others will face controls on nicotine content.
“The new guidance in Scotland, produced for those running smoking cessation services by the special health board NHS Health Scotland and Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) Scotland, focuses on harm-reduction among tobacco users on the road to stopping use of nicotine entirely,” the Scotsman story said.
The guidance says there is little evidence currently available on the quality, safety or effectiveness of e-cigarettes. However, it adds, current expert opinion on the limited evidence available suggests that e-cigarette usage is likely to be considerably less hazardous than is tobacco smoking.