E-cigarettes 'should be prescribed on the NHS' to prevent smoking deaths

Government health officials want to see e-cigarettes handed out to smokers on the NHS, after a review that claims vaping "removes all the risks" smoking poses to health.

Public Health England say that much of the public wrongly believes that e-cigarettes carry health risks in the same way cigarettes do.

But a new research claims that this is not the case and PHE wants to see smokers taking up the electronic devices to reduce the thousands of people dying from tobacco-related diseases every year.

PHE said there is no evidence to date that e-cigarettes are acting as a route into smoking for children or non-smokers, with almost all the 2.6 million adults using them in the UK either current or ex-smokers, and most of them using the devices to help them quit or stop returning to tobacco.

However, research by scientists in the US has shown that e-cigarette flavourings can be potentially harmful and cause respiratory problems

The health experts also note that GPs and stop-smoking services are not able to prescribe or recommend e-cigerettes because they are not currently licensed for medicinal purposes, but they hope that the Medicines & Healthcare products Regulatory Agency will green-light some products soon.

Professor Peter Hajek, of Queen Mary University London and another independent author of the review, told a briefing in central London that nicotine carries very few health risks and is much less poisonous than previously believed.

Public Health England say that vaping 'removes all risks' of smoking tobacco. Credit: PA

He said the main health issues surrounding e-cigarettes concern other ingredients, contaminants and by-products, which can generate some toxicants - but these are at the very low levels found in the air that people generally breathe.

Professor Kevin Fenton, director of health and well-being at PHE, said people who use e-cigarettes to help them to quit smoking would see the best results if this was carried out in conjunction with local stop smoking services.

"The best thing that a smoker can do is to quit and to quit forever and that there a range of tools which are available to help all smokers quit," he said was the message PHE wanted to get out:

Professor Fenton added:

Whilst it is hard to know just how many lives could be saved by smokers switching to e-cigarettes, the review claims that around 80,000 deaths a year in England are caused by smoking - the leading cause of preventable deaths in the country.