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Hospitals are wrong to ban e-cigarette use

BMJ 2015; 351 doi: (Published 30 September 2015) Cite this as: BMJ 2015;351:h5063
  1. David Shaw, senior research fellow, Institute for Biomedical Ethics, University of Basel, Bernoullistrasse 28, 4056 Basel, Switzerland

Hospitals should encourage innovative use of electronic cigarettes to reduce harm from tobacco, writes David Shaw

All health boards in Scotland with the exception of NHS Lothian have banned the use of electronic cigarettes on their grounds.1 The rationale is that more evidence is needed before we can conclude that e-cigarettes are safe. Even if this were true, it would not be sufficient justification for this policy.

By banning e-cigarettes, hospitals are failing patients who smoke, as well as those who do not. It is true that the safety profile of e-cigarettes is not yet entirely clear, but substantial evidence shows that they are safe, and overwhelming evidence shows that they are much safer for users than conventional cigarettes.2 3 E-cigarettes are also seen as an important tool to help people stop smoking, and the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency will license e-cigarettes as drugs from 2016.4

Smoking cessation

The ban in Scotland means not only that patients who smoke will continue to damage their own health but also that they …

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