Thirteen per cent of doctors who took part in the poll said e-cigarettes should be prescription-only products. Sixteen per cent of respondents did not think e-cigarettes should be on the market at all; while the remaining 31% of doctors believed they should be freely available.
Dr James Quekett, a practising GP and Director of Educational Services for Doctors.net.uk, said: ‘I think e-cigarettes need to be regulated like a medicine and then be available as a pharmacy-only product. This would bring them into line with nicotine replacement products.
‘Since e-cigarettes are not currently regulated as medicines; we do not know exactly what is in them apart from nicotine. Therefore, while it might be assumed that e-cigarettes are safer than traditional cigarettes because they do not contain all the toxic elements of cigarette smoke, we do not know that for a fact, and we cannot advise patients on any long-term health implications.’
Dr Michael Blackmore, a retired GP, said: ‘E-cigarettes are undoubtedly safer than tobacco in terms of the cancer risk as there are no Benzo(a)pyrenes in the vapour. However, I am less sure about the cardiovascular risk which may be more closely related to nicotine.
‘Since e-cigarettes are much cheaper than tobacco, people may be tempted to increase daily consumption of nicotine and this could heighten the risk of cardiovascular problems. I would, therefore, like to see e-cigarettes available as OTC products in pharmacies until their safety is better established.’
Dr Tim Ringrose, CEO of Doctors.net.uk, said: ‘Our research shows that many doctors are concerned about e-cigarettes and want tighter controls on where and how they are made available. The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) will be deliberating on this when it regulates e-cigarettes as medicines.’