As the sale of e-cigarettes in pharmacies becomes more prevalent, we recognise that supplying and promoting e-cigarettes, none of which are licensed products, poses an ethical dilemma for pharmacists.
The Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS), after carefully examining the currently available evidence on the safety and efficacy of e-cigarettes and taking into account current media and advertising campaigns by tobacco and e-cigarette manufacturers, is now seeking consensus on how the profession and pharmacy owners approach the promotion and supply of e-cigarettes.
Although we recognise that once licensed, e-cigarettes may add to the number of Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT) products currently available, there have been limited rigourous peer reviewed studies to support their use as safe and effective products.
E-cigarettes are currently unlicensed products with no standardisation of safety, quality or efficacy.
As such, the RPS believes e-cigarettes should not currently be sold or advertised from pharmacies.
We are asking for consensus and support for the original June 2013 intention of The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency to regulate e-cigarettes as medicinal products as an aid to smoking cessation only.
The licensing process would align e-cigarettes with other stop smoking products and assure the public and patients of their safety and efficacy. This would bring to an end to irresponsible advertising, including the marketing of e-cigarettes as a lifestyle option or as harmless alternatives to smoking, and would ensure promotion to non smokers is prohibited.
The RPS has updated its policy on e-cigarettes and has made direct contact with Government health departments, regulators, patient groups, Royal Medical and Nursing Colleges and importantly pharmacists and pharmacy owners asking for their support for our policy.
We are encouraged by statements from the pharmacy regulator GPhC and the Pharmacy and Public Health Forum that show a consensus is forming on this policy. While we appreciate there is a necessary timescale to ensure patient safety, the licensing process should be as rapid as possible. We are concerned at the precedent of a product being marketed and advertised through pharmacy while regulation as a medicinal product is being progressed.
If and when e-cigarettes become licensed products we would ask pharmacists and pharmacy owners to consider the ethics of supporting the sale of products owned and promoted by tobacco manufacturers.
Although smoking is falling across most age groups, it remains a primary threat to public health. So as not to undermine recent advances in public health policy, we believe e-cigarettes should be treated in exactly the same way as any other form of smoking and the same restrictions applied regarding minimum age for sale, use in public spaces, advertising and displays.