The decision to license BAT's e-Voke product means it can now be
prescribed on the state-funded National Health Service for patients
trying to give up 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 Medicines and Healthcare
Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) said in a statement on Monday.
The statement said the e-Voke license was granted "recently", and a
spokesman told Reuters it was issued "towards the end of last year".
Many experts think e-cigarettes, which heat nicotine-laced liquid
into an inhalable vapor, are a lower-risk alternative to smoking,
but since they are relatively new products, there is little
long-term evidence on their safety.
Public Health England, the government's public health agency, has
said it considers e-cigarettes to be at least 95 percent safer than
tobacco cigarettes, which cause lung cancer and many other diseases
and kill half of all those who use them.
BAT said in a statement on its website it is "currently evaluating
plans to commercialise" e-Voke, which uses cartridges containing
pharmaceutical grade nicotine.
More than 2 million adults use e-cigarettes in Britain, about a
third of whom are ex-smokers and two-thirds current smokers,
according to the charity Action on Smoking and Health.
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Big tobacco firms, including BAT, Philip Morris International, Japan
Tobacco and Imperial Tobacco Group, are jostling for position in the
emerging vaping market, which is estimated at around $7 billion for
The MHRA said it would "continue to encourage companies to
voluntarily submit medicines license applications for e-cigarettes
and other nicotine containing products as medicines" and hoped to
see more e-cigarettes and next generation nicotine delivery products
submit applications in future.
(Reporting by Kate Kelland, editing by Louise Heavens)
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