Electronic cigarette brand approved as a licensed medicine in UK

In collaboration with the Press Association

UK’s medicines licensing agency has cleared the way for a brand of e-cigarette to be marketed as a quit-smoking aid.

“The evidence so far suggests e-cigarettes are far safer than tobacco cigarettes, and are likely to have health benefits for smokers who can’t otherwise quit" - George Butterworth, Cancer Research UK

British American Tobacco, the makers of the e-Voke, won approval from the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), meaning the device could eventually be prescribed on the NHS in the same way as other Nicotine Replacement Therapy.

“The MHRA has licenced this product as a medicine, which removes a barrier to it being prescribed by medical practitioners as part of a quit attempt, like other Nicotine Replacement Therapy,” said George Butterworth, tobacco control manager at Cancer Research UK.

While early research suggests that e-cigarettes could prove a worthwhile aid in the fight to eradicate the single biggest preventable cause of cancer worldwide - opinion is still divided on their long-term safety.

In the year up to April 2015, two thirds of people who used them in tandem with the health service’s Stop Smoking Service successfully quit, according to the NHS. And results from the Cancer Research UK-funded Smoking Toolkit Study have shown that e-cigarettes have become the most popular quitting aid in England. 

“The evidence so far suggests e-cigarettes are far safer than tobacco cigarettes, and are likely to have health benefits for smokers who can’t otherwise quit,” said Butterworth. 

But some expert groups – including The British Medical Association and The Royal College of GPs - still hold reservations, particularly around the possibility of the devices being prescribed as medicines on the NHS. 

A further concern lies with the question of who would profit from the wide-scale take-up of prescribed e-cigarettes, with e-Voke itself produced by British American Tobacco.

Cancer Research UK’s George Butterworth, said: “It’s concerning that all of the currently licenced e-cigarettes are owned by tobacco companies, an industry responsible for a product which kills more than 100,000 people in the UK every year.

“We hope that independent e-cigarette companies apply to the licencing process so it isn’t Big Tobacco profiting from a solution to a problem it has caused.”