Anti-smoking group says banning e-cigs is the wrong approach
Health charity Ash Scotland has criticised a decision to ban e-cigs from hospitals.
It was announced this week that patients and visitors will be banned from using the electronic cigarettes following a requirement of NHS boards that they ensure their grounds are smoke-free by April.
Many health boards have already implemented restrictions under the Scottish government’s tobacco control strategy while others, like NHS Tayside and NHS Lothian, are in the process of removing smoking shelters.
But Sheila Duffy, chief executive of Ash Scotland, said the move would hit people trying to quit nicotine with e-cigs.
“There is a clear case for hospital grounds to be free from tobacco use, which is always dangerous,” she said.
“However, we are concerned that a blanket ban on e-cigarette use could discourage smokers from trying an alternative that might help them to move away from tobacco.
“A policy to restrict e-cigarette use to designated areas of hospital grounds is something we would support."
We are concerned that a blanket ban on e-cigarette use could discourage smokers from trying an alternative to tobacco
Duffy suggested hospitals might choose to draw a distinction between devices which look like cigarettes and some newer vaping devices, which look nothing like a traditional tobacco cigarette and so don’t lead to confusion with smoking.
She added: “In addition, e-cigarette use in NHS grounds will doubtless have to be reviewed in future as we expect some types of the devices may be licensed for medicinal use as a nicotine replacement therapy.
“Overall, we mustn’t lose sight of the fact that the main aim of smoke-free grounds is to put tobacco out of fashion and support people to move away from the most dangerous products and towards longer, healthier lives.”
Simon Clark, director of smokers’ group Forest, also criticised the move.
“Many smokers use e-cigs to cut down or quit tobacco so it seems perverse to prohibit their use,” he said.
“Banning them is counter-productive because if both products are prohibited there will be no incentive to switch to e-cigarettes. Smokers will simply carry on smoking, ban or no ban.”
A spokesman for the government said: “It is a matter for boards to decide how they implement and enforce their smoke-free policies, this includes whether they chose to incorporate a ban on e-cigarettes.
“No specific resources have been allocated. However, the Scottish Government allocates around £11 million a year to NHS boards for smoking-related services.”