E-CIGARETTES are a step closer to being prescribed on the NHS for the first time after the UK's medicines regulator updated its guidance for people who want to quit smoking.

The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) said e-cigarette manufacturers can now submit their products to go through the same regulatory approvals process as other medicines available via the health service.

This could lead to England becoming the first country in the world to prescribe e-cigarettes licensed as a medical product, as long as they are approved for use by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice).

Shirley Taylor, who runs The Vapour Bar which has four shops across Furness and West Cumbria alongside husband Paul, said after opening their fourth shop in Millom earlier this year: "My husband lost one of his parents and stopped and thought he didn't want to put his own children in the same position.

"We've seen so many success stories of people getting off cigarettes and switching to vaping.


STAFF: The Vapour Bar in Millom

STAFF: The Vapour Bar in Millom


"We once received a letter from a little girl in our Ulverston shop which said 'thank you for getting my daddy off cigarettes'.

"We also pride ourselves in sourcing the best ingredients and getting to know our manufacturers and producers."

If a product receives MHRA approval, clinicians could then decide on a case-by-case basis whether it would be appropriate to prescribe an e-cigarette to NHS patients to help them quit smoking.

Until now, e-cigarettes have been regulated as consumer products.

The updated guidance comes after a consultation with the E-Cigarette Expert Working Group, a group of UK experts who provided independent oversight and advice to the MHRA.

Non-smokers and children are continued to be strongly advised against using e-cigarettes.

E-cigarettes contain nicotine and are not risk free, but expert reviews from the UK and US have said the regulated e-cigarettes are less harmful than smoking. A medicinally licensed e-cigarette would have to pass even more rigorous safety checks.

Health secretary Sajid Javid said: "Opening the door to a licensed e-cigarette prescribed on the NHS has the potential to tackle the stark disparities in smoking rates across the country, helping people stop smoking wherever they live and whatever their background."