The British Government must reduce restrictions on e-cigarettes to make them more accessible to smokers, say MPs.

A science and technology parliamentary committee has publicly urged MPs to stop overlooking the endorsement by Public Health England that e-cigarettes are ‘95 percent less harmful’ than combustible cigarettes.

There’s also been calls for the government to allow for e-cigarettes to be prescribed by doctors, a move which would require the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency to approve medical licences for products.

Three million people across the UK have made the switch from smoking to vaping, however this is being overlooked by the NHS according to the committee.

The health service spends £2.6 billion treating smoking-related illnesses every year. Part of that could be improved on if public mental health trusts lifted a ban on vaping.

Earlier this year, the committee heard that one-third of NHS mental health trusts prohibit the use of e-cigarettes by patients.

MPs who have been part of the lengthy committee, led by Liberal Democrat Norman Lamb,  are also calling for the government to consider risk-based regulation to allow more freedom to advertise e-cigarettes as the relatively less harmful option for nicotine addicts.

It’s also been suggested that the government should provide financial incentives in the form of lower levels of taxation for smokers to make the transition to e-cigarettes.

And there’s been calls for the government to look again at the Tobacco and Related Products Regulations which limit e-liquid refill strengths and tank sizes, both measures brought in by the EU’s Tobacco Products Directive.

Calling on the UK government this morning to implement what he believes is necessary for the benefit of public health, chair of the science and technology committee Norman Lamb said:

“Smoking remains a national health crisis and the government should be considering innovative ways of reducing the smoking rate. E-cigarettes are less harmful than conventional cigarettes, but current policy and regulations do not sufficiently reflect this and businesses, transport providers and public places should stop viewing conventional and e-cigarettes as one and the same. There is no public health rationale for doing so.”

“Concerns that e-cigarettes could be a gateway to conventional smoking, including for young non-smokers, have not materialised. If used correctly, e-cigarettes could be a key weapon in the NHS’s stop smoking arsenal. E-cigarettes are a proven stop smoking tool and, while uncertainties undoubtedly remain about their long-term health impact, failing to explore the use of e-cigarettes could lead to the continued use of conventional cigarettes – which currently kill around 79,000 people in England every year.”

“Medically licensed e-cigarettes would make it easier for doctors to discuss and recommend them as a stop smoking tool to aid those quitting smoking. The approval systems for prescribing these products must be urgently reviewed.”

“The percentage of people smoking among those with mental health conditions remains stubbornly high, while it is declining in the general population. People with mental health conditions are almost 2.5 times more likely to smoke compared to the general population.”

“It is therefore extraordinary that one-third of mental health trusts ban the use of e-cigarettes completely, while three-quarters of NHS trusts are mistakenly concerned about ‘second-hand’ e-cigarette vapour. This is unacceptable.

“Those with mental ill health are being badly let down and NHS England appear to have failed to give this any priority. NHS England’s default policy should be that e-cigarettes should be permitted in mental health units.”