British American Tobacco’s e-Voke is the first of its kind to receive a drug licence
For any smoker in the UK looking to kick the habit, your favourite medical professional may soon prescribe you an e-cigarette. According to Reuters, British American Tobacco’s e-Voke recently became the first vaping device to be given a drug licence in the UK, meaning it’s officially recognised by the state-funded National Health Service as a “quit smoking medicine.”
“We want to ensure licensed nicotine containing products—including e-cigarettes—which make medicinal claims are available and meet appropriate standards of safety, quality and efficacy to help reduce the harms from smoking,” the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) said in a statement on Monday.
Reuters writes that the e-Voke licence was issued “towards the end of last year” and that British American Tobacco is “currently evaluating plans to commercialise” their product. It’s still unclear as to whether vaping really is safer than cigarettes, but a report issued by Public Health England last year suggests that it could be 95 percent less harmful than the real thing. More importantly, e-cigarettes could represent the first step in a smoker’s journey to quitting. Professor Ann McNeill, who helped author the report, described it as a potential “gamechanger” in public health.
Not everyone was on board with the study’s data, however. While some health agencies expressed support, the British Medical Association was more guarded, noting that there needed to be a “stronger regulatory framework.” As such, it’s unlikely we’ll see e-cigarette dispensers in clinics any time soon.
In the US, the idea of an e-cigarette as a prescribed therapeutic device for smokers is likely a long way off. Last fall, a government task force found there simply wasn’t enough evidence to make such a case. “The current evidence is insufficient to recommend electronic nicotine delivery systems for tobacco cessation in adults, including pregnant women,” reads a report from the US Preventive Services Task Force. That conclusion aligns with a famous 2010 legal case involving the FDA, in which the government agency wanted to regulate e-cigarettes before import and sale like they do items like nicotine patches. An appellate court eventually found that e-cigarettes could only be regulated as tobacco products—not as a drug or therapeutic-drug mechanism—and that companies were in fact marketing to smokers (and not those looking to quit).