The largest health board in Scotland has reversed a decision to ban e-cigarette use on hospital property.
The Greater Glasgow and Clyde (GGC) National Health Service (NHS) board joins NHS Lothian as the second Scottish hospital board to permit vaping in designated areas on all health-related premises.
With NHS Lothian covering much of Edinburgh, the pair represent the largest two Scottish cities, and their approach is unusual in that healthcare facilities are often among the first candidates for vaping bans.
The Scottish government had previously given health boards the ability to decide about on-site vaping policy themselves. NHS Lothian was the only board to allow restricted use of e-cigarettes at that time.
Now, GGC says that its decision to join NHS Lothian and reverse its ban on e-cigarette use was down to the research carried out by Public Health England that found strongly in favour of e-cigs, and is also consistent with guidance published by Health Scotland, which recommends that NHS smoking cessation services should support those choosing to quit smoking by using e-cigarettes.
GGC’s smoke-free community services had already been supporting e-cigarette use as part of its effort to get people to quit conventional smoking, and had conducted its own research showing that 32% of smokers in the GGC area intended to use e-cigarettes to help them quit. A further 18% of recent ex-smokers had already used them in the past 12 months to help quit, the board added.
“I welcome the Board’s decision to approve the use of e-cigarettes in specific areas within our grounds. It is clear from research carried out by Public Health England, ourselves and others that e-cigarettes do have their place in the fight against tobacco and are being used effectively to help people stop smoking altogether,” said Emilia Crighton, GGC director of public health.
“It is therefore very important that we organise our services to ensure that that we can safely and effectively manage the use [of] e-cigarettes as part of [a] suite of services to help people give up tobacco,” she added.
The decision will also benefit people with mental health issues, Crighton added. Smoking prevalence is high among this population and it can be difficult to implement quitting strategies and manage smoke-free policies in healthcare premises that cater to mental health needs. The decision to allow e-cigarettes will help with both of these challenges, she said.
Scottish health boards are independently run by the health department of the Scottish devolved government, called Health Scotland. Public Health England has no jurisdiction but is considered to be a policy expert.
What This Means: The move is a sign of the continued shift in UK policy towards e-cigarettes. GGC’s decision could lead to other health authorities across the UK following suit, and might have some impact on the continued discussion about full e-cigarette regulation in Scotland.
– Freddie Dawson ECigIntelligence staff
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