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Pharmacies selling vapes should offer ‘behavioural support’ to users

Pharmacy teams selling vapes should offer “behavioural support for smoking cessation” with each sale, a government-commissioned review has recommended. 

The review, published today (June 9), proposed a total of 15 interventions to help the government meet its target of being smoke free by 2030.

Pharmacies and pharmacists’ role should be maximised to help smokers quit, according to the review – which acknowledged that “the pharmacy contract is encouraging but does not go far enough”.

Pharmacies selling vapes should offer users of the devices “behavioural support” to quit, the review recommended.


Read more: E-cigarettes could be available on NHS prescription to tackle smoking rates


Since March, pharmacies in England have been able to start offering an advanced smoking cessation service. The scheme allows patients who started their smoking cessation treatment in hospital – and who consent to be part of the ongoing service – to be referred to a participating pharmacy of their choice for continued support in the community.

However, the review suggested that “pharmacotherapy and skilled behavioural support” should not just be offered to people referred from hospital, and at least one pharmacy in “every neighbourhood” should provide this service.

According to the review, there are still around six million smokers in England. Smoking remains the leading preventable cause of death.


“We know vapes are not a 'silver bullet'”


The review acknowledged that “vapes are not a ‘silver bullet’, nor are they totally risk free”. But “the government must embrace the promotion of vaping as an effective tool to help people to quit smoking tobacco”, it said.

The “alternative is far worse”, it stressed.

Last year, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) updated its guidance for licensing e-cigarettes – paving the way for these products to be prescribed on the NHS in England.


Read more: Pharmacy smoking cessation service set for slow start, PSNC anticipates


“One possible response is to produce a medicinally licensed vape product,” the review suggested.

“But currently, to do this, independent small and medium-sized enterprises face significant barriers and high costs.”

Javed Khan, the former chief executive of children’s charity Barnardo’s, who led the review, added: “However, I am heartened to know that the MHRA is keen to work with government to address this as quickly as possible.”

Other recommendations Dr Khan outlined in the review include requiring training bodies, including those for pharmacists, to “incorporate stop smoking and very brief advice training into their mandatory curricula”.

The review’s recommendations will now be considered by ministers, with a response expected to be published as part of the government’s Health Disparities White Paper.


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