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20th Aug 2015

Why I welcome calls for e-cigs to be available on the NHS

I welcome e-cigarettes on the NHS as all the evidence points to ‘vaping’ having the potential to save tens of thousands of lives because the electronic devices are far less harmful than traditional cigarettes.

I encounter the devastating consequences of smoking every day in my work as a head and neck cancer specialist.

It is thought about three out of four cases of throat, mouth, lip and voice box cancers are linked to tobacco or alcohol use.

So anything that helps encourage Britain’s eight million smokers to give up has got to be a good thing, although the jury is still out on whether e-cigs entice non-smokers into vaping.

There are also fears – apparently unproven on the evidence so far – that vaping can lead former non-smokers into moving onto tobacco products, or that puffing on e-cigs could make smoking seem acceptable again after years of campaigning against the anti-social habit.

My own view is that vaping has not been around long enough to fully understand the long-term effects although the benefits of not inhaling tar and other carcinogens from traditional cigarettes will have a profound impact in improving health.

There is no doubt vaping has many advantages but it should be remembered that e-cigarettes still contain nicotine which is addictive, so while the habit is an effective and far less harmful alternative to tobacco the best policy must be not to do either.

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