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  1. ITV Report

Leicester to host national smoking experiment: Should e-cigarettes be prescribed on the NHS?

Leicester has been chosen as one of the cities that will host an experiment to help determine whether e-cigarettes should be available on the NHS.

The study is being conducted by Queen Mary University of London with London and East Sussex being the other two cities to host the experiment.

Despite the review, e-cigarettes cannot currently be prescribed on the NHS. Credit: PA

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

Smoking remains England's number one killer and the best thing a smoker can do is to quit completely, now and forever. E-cigarettes are not completely risk free but when compared to smoking, evidence shows they carry just a fraction of the harm.

"Local stop smoking services should look to support e-cigarette users in their journey to quitting completely."

– PROFESSOR KEVIN FENTON, PHE

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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.

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

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.

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.

My reading of the evidence is that smokers who switch to vaping remove almost all the risks smoking poses to their health."

– PROFESSOR PETER HAJEK, QUEEN MARY UNIVERSITY LONDON

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.