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RPS urges pharmacists who sell e-cigarettes only to sell to adults

The Royal Pharmaceutical Society has said that, while it cannot support the sale of electronic cigarettes from community pharmacies until there is a licensed product available, pharmacies that do choose to sell them should adhere to the voluntary age restrictions that apply to the products.

RPS director for England Howard Duff said today (6 January 2014) that the RPS recognises that some community pharmacists may decide to sell e-cigarettes and recommends that they should not be sold to anyone under the age of 18 years.

Mr Duff said: “Until there is a licensed product, the RPS cannot support the sale of e-cigarettes in pharmacies.

“We recognise individual pharmacies may sell them, in which case they should not be supplied to those under age. Manufacturers have voluntary age restrictions on e-cigarettes that they should not be provided to under 18s, the legal age for smoking.”

His comments follow confirmation that the Scottish public health minister Michael Matheson will be meeting MSP Stewart Maxwell to discuss the lack of a mandatory age limit on the sale of nicotine-containing e-cigarettes, after Mr Maxwell raised concerns.

Mr Maxwell said: “It cannot be right that these nicotine-containing products can be legally marketed and sold to children. There is a worrying loophole here that needs to be tightened up as a matter of urgency.”

We want to ensure that nicotine-containing products, including electronic cigarettes, are available that meet appropriate standards of safety, quality and efficacy to help reduce the harms from smoking.

The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency

The meeting was confirmed just weeks after the European Commission reached agreement on a revised Tobacco Products Directive which tightens the quality and safety around the nicotine content of e-cigarettes, their ingredients and the refilling devises used.

Although the directive makes health warnings and information leaflets obligatory, it does not address the age limit issue.

In the UK, the medicines regulator, and the Government, had been pushing for e-cigarettes — and other nicotine-containing products — to be licensed as medicines. Under existing legislation e-cigarettes are classified as a consumer product and fall under trading standards regulations.

The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency today confirmed that it only has power to regulate e-cigarettes if they have a medicines licence. Some e-cigarette manufacturers have applied for a licence but the MHRA spokesman said that he was unable to give more information because it was commercially sensitive.

In a statement the MHRA said: “We have always said that our position would need to reflect the outcome of the negotiations of the European Tobacco Products Directive.

“We want to ensure that nicotine-containing products, including electronic cigarettes, are available that meet appropriate standards of safety, quality and efficacy to help reduce the harms from smoking.

“The MHRA continues to encourage companies to voluntarily submit medicines licence applications for electronic cigarettes and other nicotine-containing products as medicines.”

Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal DOI: 10.1211/PJ.2014.11132492

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