Pharmacists risk sparking another media scandal unless they ensure they are selling e-cigarettes ethically, a lawyer has warned.
Although the sale of e-cigarettes was legal, the media would be likely to probe into the ethics surrounding the products, Noel Wardle, partner at Charles Russell, said at the legal firm's conference on Thursday (March 27).
Mr Wardle explained that pharmacists would have to give patients full information on e-cigarettes to help them make an informed choice.
Although the sale of e-cigarettes was legal, the media would be likely to probe into the ethics surrounding the products, said solicitor Noel Wardle
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Failing to do so could see a repeat of the Channel 4 investigation into homeopathy in 2011, which cast doubts over the ethics of the profession, he warned. The programme uncovered pharmacists selling homeopathic malarial prophylaxis but Mr Wardle stressed that the alleged lack of advice given by some pharmacy staff was the most damning part of the investigation.
If pharmacists decided to sell e-cigarettes, they would be duty-bound to highlight the risks, Mr Wardle argued. "The ethical position [on e-cigarettes] is interesting because they're not banned from sale in pharmacies and the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) has made that very clear," he told the conference.
"It has said pharmacists can supply them, but need to remember their overriding duty to protect the wellbeing of patients. That includes whether it's ethical, whether [it] protects the health of patients and also whether the patient needs this product, which isn't currently regulated in the same way as other products," Mr Wardle stressed.
Last month, the Royal Pharmaceutical Society called for pharmacists to shun e-cigarettes until they became licensed in 2016. The GPhC has advised pharmacists to bear in mind its guidance and to "exercise their professional judgement" when deciding whether to stock the products.
Should pharmacists sell e-cigarettes?