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E-cigarettes: English health bosses want to prescribe them on the NHS. But what about Wales?

Battle lines are being drawn on the e-cigarette debate. Government Vs opposition, charity Vs charity and now it seems it's Wales Vs England.

A report, commissioned for Public Health England, has heaped praise on the electronic devises saying they could be a "game changer in public health." That's in sharp contrast to Welsh public health officials who want them included in the smoking ban.

Credit: ITV Wales

Public Health England are also talking about GPs prescribing the devises to patients to help quit smoking.

Before that can happen it'll need the Medicines & Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) to sanction their use for medical purposes. That decision is expected soon. When I asked the Welsh Government if we could see Welsh GPs prescribing them I was told it was "inappropriate to comment further ahead of the MHRA announcing their decision."

You can read the reasons behind the Welsh Government's proposed ban here but the independent author of the report, Professor Ann McNeill from King's College London, disputes some of it. Her report found:

  • No evidence so far that e-cigarettes are acting as a route into smoking for children or non-smokers
  • E-cigarettes could potentially mean 76,000 fewer deaths every year in England - down from 80,000 deaths a year.
  • E-cigarettes could be contributing to the decline in smoking amongst adults and youths

Opposition parties are already using the report as evidence in their argument against a ban:

"It provides yet more evidence that Labour Ministers are very wrong in their efforts to try and ban the use of e-cigarettes in public places.

I remain unconvinced by the Welsh Government's arguments for a public ban and I fear this would be a huge step backwards for those who are using e-cigarettes to quit smoking or cut down the number of traditional cigarettes they are smoking each day"

– Darren Millar AM, Shadow Health Minister

"This report completely contradicts all of Labour’s rhetoric on e-cigarettes. The truth is that Labour want to ban e-cigarettes because it doesn’t like them, rather than basing the decision on evidence - it’s as simple as that."

– Kirsty Williams AM, Leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats

But Welsh Government shows no indication of changing direction:

"We welcome this report which provides a useful review of the current evidence on the role of e-cigarettes for smoking cessation and their safety. We have outlined plans to restrict the use of e-cigarettes in enclosed public spaces, bringing them into line with conventional cigarettes. We are concerned the use of e-cigarettes may re-normalise smoking, especially for a generation who have grown up in a largely smoke-free society.

We are not alone in our concerns - the World Health Organisation and other international bodies have called for greater regulation of e-cigarettes and 40 other countries have already taken similar steps. Our Bill does not aim to prevent the use of e-cigarettes for those seeking to give up conventional smoking.

– Welsh Government Spokesman

The reality is that public health officials can't decide if they are a good thing or a bad, but the evidence in favour of them is growing. Will it change Welsh plans? It seems not.

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