Scottish GPs call for e-cigarette ban in public places

GPs have called on the Scottish government to ban e-cigarettes in enclosed public places, describing the products as 'addictive, unlicensed and unregulated'.

GPs said e-cigarettes must be better regulated (photo: iStock)
GPs said e-cigarettes must be better regulated (photo: iStock)

They also demanded tighter regulations on the sale and advertisement of e-cigarettes, which can currently be legally purchased by children.

The Scottish government said it was in 'complete agreement' that e-cigarettes need stronger regulation, and would work towards protecting young people from 'behaviours that may make smoking seem normal'.

Scottish LMC representatives voted in favour of new restrictions at the annual Scottish LMCs conference in Clydebank near Glasgow last week.

Dr Andrew Thomson, a GP from Tayside, spoke for the motion. He said: ‘The safety and protection of the public is priority in the use of nicotine-containing products and the use of e-cigarettes must be treated in the same way.

‘The safety and protection of the public is [the] priority.’
- Dr Andrew Thomson, Tayside GP

 ‘If they are a genuine tool to be used in helping smokers quit then they should be treated and regulated as such. We are calling on the Scottish government to maintain a consistent approach in the image of smoking and extend the ban in smoking in enclosed public places to cover e-cigarettes.’

E-cigarettes contain nicotine, and were described as ‘an addictive, unlicensed and unregulated product’ by GPs at the conference.

The motion also called for e-cigarettes to only be displayed for sale alongside other nicotine replacement therapies.

Dr Colette Maule, a negotiator for GPC Scotland, said it was important to find out how effective e-cigarettes are as a smoking cessation aid. ‘We need to press for more research which looks at both the efficacy and health implications of e-cigarettes. It is really important that we find out if the hand-to-mouth use of e-cigarettes either breaks or reinforces smoking behaviours. We need to know if e-cigarettes actually help smokers quit.’

Scottish public health minister Michael Matheson said the government 'welcomed' the issue being raised by the BMA.

'While I accept that the devices may potentially help people smoke fewer cigarettes, or even stop altogether, there is concern that the devices could also re-normalise smoking,' he said. 'I have said before that the case for restricting the sale of e-cigarettes to young people makes sense but we need to work through the practicalities before bringing forward specific plans.

'I am clear that electronic cigarettes should not be marketed or promoted in a way that makes them attractive to young people and we will do all we can to bring forward measures that keep children protected from behaviours that may make smoking seem normal.'

In March 2006, Scotland was the first in the UK to implement a ban on smoking in enclosed public paces for normal cigarettes. England, Wales and Northern Ireland eventually followed suit in April-July 2007.

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