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UK health agency approves first e-cig for clinical use

British American Tobacco's e-Voke could be prescribed by the NHS to help people give up smoking.
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The long-term effects of vaping won't be known for some time, but despite some cautionary advice and unsettling research into flavourings, the general consensus is e-cigarettes are better for you than the real thing. Many smokers have turned to vaping to help kick (or at least transfer) their habit, and with this in mind, the UK's Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) recently approved an e-cigarette for clinical use for the first time.

As Reuters reports, British American Tobacco (BAT) was granted the appropriate medical device licence towards the end of last year, meaning its e-Voke vapouriser could be prescribed by the NHS as a smoking cessation treatment. It's the first e-cigarette to receive this clinical indication in the UK, where drugs that numb cravings and nicotine-replacement patches, gums and inhalers have traditionally been the go-to, state-sponsored therapies.

BAT is already responsible for the popular Vype e-cigarette brand, but e-Voke is a different device that's said to use pharmaceutical-grade e-liquid. (To receive MHRA approval, BAT will've had to demonstrate that it's safe, manufactured to the highest standard, and so on.) Don't expect to walk into your local GP surgery and stroll out with an NHS-subsidised e-Voke, though, as BAT is "currently evaluating plans to commercialise" the product, meaning it's sought regulatory approval before producing it en masse. Being able to count the NHS as an ally will no doubt weigh heavily on the decision, however.

E-cigarettes are facing greater regulation this year, as new EU rules coming into effect in May will classify them as tobacco-related products. The increased scrutiny should only serve to make vaping products safer, and the MHRA is confident e-cigs have a role to play in helping people quit smoking. "We want to ensure licensed nicotine containing products -- including e-cigarettes -- which make medicinal claims are available and meet appropriate standards of safety, quality and efficacy to help reduce the harms from smoking," the MHRA said in a statement.

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