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Consider guidance from RPS and MHRA before selling e-cigarettes, urges GPhC

Pharmacists must feel empowered to exercise their professional judgement, says GPhC chief executive

Duncan Rudkin, chief executive of the General Pharmaceutical Council, has issued a statement on the controversial issue of electronic cigarettes being sold in pharmacies. When making a decision about whether or not to stock “e-cigarettes”, he says he expects pharmacy owners or superintendent pharmacists to consider “relevant guidance” from the Royal Pharmaceutical Society and the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency.

It recently emerged that Boots and Lloyds pharmacies have made the decision to stock e-cigarettes. The move goes against guidance from the RPS, which states that it cannot endorse the use of unlicensed electronic cigarettes or other unlicensed nicotine-containing products as a form of treatment through pharmacy.

In his statement, Mr Rudkin says: “The health, safety and well-being of patients must be the first concern.” He continues that pharmacists and technicians must feel empowered to exercise their professional judgement. He recommends that they should give impartial and up-to-date advice on the availability and benefits of other products such as nicotine replacement therapies for which there is evidence about safety, quality and efficacy.

A further debate around e-cigarettes was sparked by a recent television advertisement for Vype, a device owned by British American Tobacco. Speaking to BBC Radio Scotland, Alex Mackinnon, RPS director for Scotland, said the advertisement undermines public health policy in Scotland. He also said that he thinks it is not just about “substituting e-cigarettes for smoking tobacco”, it is about glamorising smoking and promoting e-cigarettes as a safe new lifestyle choice to young people.

He added that it may be the case that in the future e-cigarettes will be able to help people to stop smoking but that at the moment there is no regulation and so no guarantee of their safety, quality or effectiveness. He pointed out that recent studies have identified potential carcinogens in e-cigarettes.

See also: Debate over e-cigarettes heats up as European Parliament tightens rules

Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal DOI: 10.1211/PJ.2014.11134736

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