In June 2013, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) announced plans to license electronic cigarettes as medicines by 2016. The decision has been prompted by growing concern about the safety and quality of these unlicensed products and the varying nicotine content compared to the label on the packaging. The overall aims are to impose quality standards, advertising restrictions and possibly age restrictions by 2016 which will mean that high-quality products can be made available to help support smokers reduce their smoking and to eventually quit.
As some people find electronic cigarettes useful in cutting down and stopping smoking the decision has been made not to ban electronic cigarettes now, but to work towards having products that are safe and effective. By 2016, all electronic cigarettes will have to meet the safety, quality and efficancy requirements of a medicine and meet the same standards as nicotine gum and patches.
However, international academics led by Peter Hajek, director of the tobacco dependence research unit at the Wolfson Institute of Preventative Medicine, Queen Mary University of London, have argued that the MHRA’s plans could have severe unintended consequences at a time when a “realistic opportunity” was emerging to resolve the tobacco problem. In an article published on 23 July 2013 in the Lancet Respiratory Medicine journal, they warned that regulators should “hold their fire” on licensing electronic cigarettes because it could cause the death of millions of smokers. The arguments for consumer safety, the need for precise product labeling and the need to compete with nicotine-replacement therapies on equal terms lacked merit, argued the academics.
Weldricks Pharmacy have made the decision to continue to sell electronic cigarettes as it is clear they are a popular product and we would rather customers have the opportunity to buy them from a registered pharmacy premises or website where help and support is available to assist with smoking cessation. We work closely with our suppliers to ensure we only sell quality products.
Which licensed Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT) product could help you quit the habit for good?
Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT) supplies the body with nicotine at levels that control withdrawal symptoms, allowing the smoker to concentrate on breaking their behavioural dependence on cigarettes. The smoker then gradually wean themselves off the nicotine once their smoking behaviour has been changed by “stepping down” the NRT by either using a lower strength or by using it less frequently. However, NRT does not ‘make’ you stop smoking. You still need determination to succeed in breaking the smoking habit. Stop Smoking Clinics are available on the NHS and these have good success in helping people to stop smoking. Some pharmacies offer Smoking Cessation services too. Support from family and friends is important as well.
Patches: Release nicotine into the bloodstream and are best suited to regular smokers with low dependence on the behavioural aspects of smoking. 24 hour patches may be more effective for those who smoke a cigarette soon after waking. 16 hour patches may be preferable for those who suffer sleep disturbances when using NRT.
Gum: Chewed when there is an urge to smoke. This may be the most appropriate option for those with irregular smoking habits.
Lozenges and microtabs: Best suited to those with irregular smoking patterns and have the advantage of being discreet as they are not sucked or swallowed but left to dissolve slowly in the mouth.
Inhalator: May be useful for people who miss the hand to mouth action of smoking. The nicotine is inhaled through the mouth in a similar manner to smoking a cigarette.
Nasal spray: Useful for heavy smokers and those who want rapid relief from cravings. Mimics the rapid increase in nicotine levels that you get from smoking cigarettes.
Mouth spray: Also provides rapid relief from cravings and is the fastest form of NRT in terms of how quickly the nicotine reaches the brain.
Choice of NRT product is mostly based on patient preference and there is not a lot of difference in how well the different formulations work. If a particular NRT formulation has not been successful, an alternative one may prove more beneficial. If someone has particularly bad withdrawal symptoms, combining different NRT formulations may be an option, for example a patch and either gum, spray or an inhalator.