Wednesday 27 July 2016 9:08 am

GPs don't believe e-cigarettes should be prescribed for patients trying to stop smoking

Sorry vapers, even though public health bodies are promoting e-cigarettes, it doesn't look like the UK's GPs are on your side for now.

In a poll conducted by the website GP Online, nearly 70 per cent of GP respondents said they did not believe e-cigarettes should be available on prescription as a bridging product to helps smokers quit their habit. 

Less than a fifth, 17 per cent, of GPs backed the idea of prescribing e-cigarettes, while 14 per cent said they weren't sure. 

The crux of the matter for doctors seems to be that there is not yet enough long-term data on the safety of e-cigarettes to justify prescribing them en masse. 

Read more: How the EU has pushed e-cigarettes into the dark

"To my mind it is still smoking and we do not know the harm these vapours are doing," one GP said in the survey, while others queried the costs involved and a lack of knowledge as to what a standard e-cigarette prescription would look like. 

However, 37 per cent of GPs said they would be likely to recommend e-cigarettes to someone looking to quite smoking, while 35 per cent were neutral and 28 per cent said they were unlikely or very unlikely to recommend them.

E-cigs: The lesser evil

E-cigarettes have been widely promoted by public health bodies as a lesser evil to traditional tobacco cigarettes. 

A study by Public Health England (PHE) last year found vaping products are 95 per cent safer than normal cigarettes, while a landmark report this year from the Royal College of Physicians found they are not a gateway to traditional smoking and said they should be widely promoted as a substitute. 

Read more: Vaping industry body seeks government meeting to discuss law change

French health regulators have recently reached similar conclusions.

E-cigarettes supply the nicotine smokers are addicted to without the harmful and carcinogenic components of tobacco smoke, meaning they prevent most of the harm smoking causes.

This month, PHE went as far as to say vapers should be given their own vaping rooms, in an echo of old-style smoking rooms.

Read more: What big tobacco needs to know about the UK's e-cigarette smokers

Professor Kevin Fenton, national director of health and wellbeing at PHE, said of its pro-vaping advice to employers:

The evidence is clear that vaping is much less harmful than smoking and that e-cigarettes are helping many smokers to quit.

This new framework will encourage organisations to consider both the benefits and the risks when developing their own policies on e-cigarettes.

Different approaches will be appropriate in different places, but policies should take account of the evidence and clearly distinguish vaping from smoking.