SHOULD E-CIGS BE PRESCRIBED BY THE NHS?
E-cigs for FREE?
Headlines in the current news are that Public Health England (PHE) recommends that e-cigarettes should be given away for free by the NHS. There are pretty strong arguments for both sides of this timely debate. In the PHE camp is the positive report by an independent think-tank. The latest evidence shows at least 20,000 people a year are quitting smoking with the help of e-cigarettes. Good stuff! Better puff on an e-cig than on a tobacco cigarette for sure! Think of the money the NHS could save.A strong proponent of vaping over smoking tobacco is Ann McNeil, professor of tobacco addiction at King’s College London. She says that smokers still have a poor understanding of what causes the real damage to health from smoking cigarettes. It is not the nicotine. It is the lethal mix of 7,000 smoke constituents, 70 of which are known to cause cancer. Everyone knows that cancer and smoking go hand-in-hand, but cancer is not the only baddie on the block. Think about heart disease and related cardiovascular problems that are major causes of disabilities and premature death in the UK.
eCigs on prescription?
Public Health England (PHE) wants electronic cigarettes to be prescribed on the NHS within the next few years because of how successful they have been in helping people give up smoking. This seems to make sense, but the opposition to this idea has strong arguments too. One is that the NHS is already creaking at its knees financially. The NHS should not misdirect its precious funding to purchase e-cigs. Even President Trump called our beloved NHS a bankrupt system, but he has his own reasons to say that, which is another story.
If people who want to give up smoking really want to quit, they should buy their own e-cigs. Opponents to the free give-away e-cig quite rightly argue that vaping e-cigs is much cheaper than smoking fags, probably about 10 percent of the cost! So if you can afford a packet of cigarettes you can certainly afford an e-cig. Psychologically too, if you have to pay for something like an e-cig as an alternative to cigarettes, you are more likely to give vaping a really good try. If the NHS hands out e-cigs for free, the users may have less incentive to make the change to vaping.
Other critics of PHE the advice call this an example of the government’s interfering nanny state once again. After all, to smoke or not to smoke is a lifestyle choice. However, it is a very hard habit to break. Like other lifestyle choices that are dangerous, there are consequences. Fortunately, the NHS does not turn its back on smokers, drug users or alcoholics even when doctors advise against these habits. Can you imagine if you had to pay for treatment for other lifestyle choices, like riding a motorcycle and you were in an accident? Maybe PHE England needs to start taking on the views of the taxpayer. No e-cigarettes are currently licensed in the UK as a quit-smoking aid, but it is now clear that they help.
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