To vape or not to vape? That is still the question.

Adam Osprey, Policy & Development Pharmacist

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

In recent years, e-cigarettes and other vaping products have been somewhat of a hot topic, with some people hailing them as a harm reduction opportunity not to be missed whilst others would argue that the risks of vaping are still not fully known and it should be avoided at any cost.

The relative lack of robust evidence, licensing or regulation has made it difficult for health professionals like you and I to see through the haze of conflicting opinions and agendas to make informed decisions. It’s also the reason why, years after their popularity boomed, we still don’t have definitive guidance as to how these devices fit into our national smoking cessation service. If you’re like me, you’ll take a pragmatic approach to your advice when patients are looking to switch to e-cigarettes but aren’t ready to quit nicotine completely. Being a typically risk-averse pharmacist though, I’d be happier doing this if there was a more solid evidence base or a set of national guidelines available.

The production of clear guidance is hampered by the fact that studies on vaping are often limited by the immense variation in quality and type of e-cigarettes being used, so generalisations about efficacy and safety can’t be made with confidence. Add this to reports of children being poisoned after consuming e-liquid and tanks exploding all over the place, and the need for standardisation of devices becomes very clear if we are to move toward using these tools as a harm reduction or smoking cessation aid.

So, in order to start on the journey to gathering better evidence, there are a few regulatory changes coming down the line soon. Along with these are measures to protect young people from taking up vaping, and you’ll need to know about these if you stock e-cigarette products:

  1. You will only be able to sell products which comply with the Tobacco Products Directive (TPD)
    • Ask your supplier if this the case for products you keep - if not, you have until the 20th May  to sell through residual stock
    • This will ensure a certain standard of safety and help make futre studies into safety and efficiancy more robust.
  2. You'll have to add yourself to the Register of Tobacco and Nicotine Vapour Product Retailers
    • This will be a one-off process, and will allow authorities to know who to apply new regulations to. Opens on the 1st April, becomes law in October.
  3. Sales to under 18s will be prohibited from 1st April, and you must have an age verification policy
    • The "Challange 25" policy should be adopted as a minimumprecaustion
    • Only certain forms of ID can be accepted as proof of age
    • There is a recommendation to keep a log of refusals to show that your policy is bein adhered to.
  4. Sales by staff who are under 18 will need to be authorised by a duty manager
    • A log of instances where this happens must be kept.

The Scottish Government have endorsed a really useful guide to the new regulations – it’s worth a read for some quick, practical suggestions on how to ensure you meet the new requirements.

So, although these changes might seem like added bureaucracy in the first instance, they will hopefully pave the way towards us being able to further support the people of Scotland to become tobacco-free (If not nicotine-free), which would be the Public Health triumph of our generation.