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A matter of concern

The decision of several pharmacy chains and some community pharmacies to start selling and promoting e-cigarettes is a matter of concern.

The General Pharmaceutical Council’s standards make it clear that the health, safety and well-being of patients must be the first concern for pharmacy owners and superintendent pharmacists when deciding which products and services to supply in a pharmacy. Pharmacists and pharmacy technicians must also take this into account when giving advice and information to patients. They must also ensure that their staff are empowered to exercise their professional judgement in the best interests of patients and the public and that incentives and targets do not compromise the advice and care given.

E-cigarettes are currently unlicensed products with limited scientific evidence of their safety, quality or efficacy. Guidance from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence makes it clear that licensed nicotine-containing products have an important role to play in helping people quit and reducing harm from tobacco. We welcome the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency’s announcement in 2013 of its intention to regulate e-cigarettes as medicinal products as an aid for stopping smoking. This will align these products with other licensed nicotine-containing stop-smoking products and assure health professionals and the public of their safety, quality and efficacy.

A range of licensed alternative products is already available from pharmacies. Until such time as the MHRA licenses individual e-cigarette products, we cannot support their use or promotion as smoking cessation aids. When advising people on which nicotine-containing stop-smoking product to use, pharmacy staff should be aware that some products may not be licensed and should not be presented as having any therapeutic benefit.

Keith Ridge
Chief Pharmaceutical Officer for England

Bill Scott
Chief Pharmaceutical Officer
Scottish Government

Roger Walker
Chief Pharmaceutical Officer for Wales

Mark Timoney
Acting Chief Pharmaceutical Officer for Northern Ireland

Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal DOI: 10.1211/PJ.2014.11137946

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