Hospitals should sell e-cigarettes and provide patients with vaping lounges, says Public Health England.
Public Health England (PHE) has released a controversial document stating patients should be allowed to vape in side-rooms and purchase e-cigarettes in hospital shops to help stop them smoking regular cigarettes.
PHE has also recommended that e-cigarettes should be acknowledged as ‘quitting aids’ allowing NHS GPs to prescribe the devices to patients trying to stop smoking.
The report, which includes research undertaken by leading independent tobacco experts, concludes that vaping only poses a fraction of the risk of smoking traditional cigarettes.
Martin Dockerell, tobacco control lead for Public Health England, said:
“We are saying no smoking anywhere on the grounds, no smoking in the smoking shelter – that shelter becomes a vaping shelter.
“There are two parts to being a smoke-free hospital, one is not allowing smoking on the premises, the other is helping every smoker to quit.
“Some hospitals will decide, especially with their longer-term patients or patients who don’t have a choice whether they are there or not, where it will be appropriate to have spaces indoors to have spaces where vaping is permitted.
“The strongest case for that is psychiatric hospitals because have got the highest prevalence of smoking and the highest levels of smoking related harm.
“Single occupancy rooms are quite common in mental health trusts so that makes it very easy for people to vape in a single occupancy room without any annoyance to anybody else.”
Professor John Newton, director for health improvement at PHE, said:
“Every minute someone is admitted to hospital from smoking, with around 79,000 deaths a year in England alone.
“Our new review reinforces the finding that vaping is a fraction of the risk of smoking, at least 95% less harmful, and of negligible risk to bystanders.
“Yet over half of smokers either falsely believe that vaping is as harmful as smoking or just don’t know.
“It would be tragic if thousands of smokers who could quit with the help of an e-cigarette are being put off due to false fears about their safety.”
However, experts have warned that the report doesn’t address the issue of patients who receive oxygen therapy and the increased risk this may pose.