Electronic cigarettes seem to attract praise and criticism in equal measure, but now a report from Public Health England seems to be in favour of them.

The report suggests electronic cigarettes should be prescribed on the NHS to help people quit smoking. It found e-cigarettes to be about 95% less harmful than regular cigarettes. Currently, these kill about 80,000 in England every year.

According to Professor Ann McNeill, an author of the report: “If everybody who was smoking switched to e-cigarettes that [figure] would reduce to about 4,000 deaths a year.”

The report found no evidence that e-cigarettes offer a “gateway” to a smoking habit, and that users are in fact “almost exclusively” existing smokers. This challenges the critics’ view, but how much would they cost the NHS?

An electronic cigarette kit costs about £20, plus a further £10 per week in replacement fluids, with the NHS bill for nicotine replacement treatments already standing at £49million for 2013-14.

Supporters for e-cigarettes argue that money would be saved in the long run, with fewer patients suffering from smoking-related illnesses. The prospect of long-term savings without the need for cuts is an appealing option to many.

We want to know what you think. Are you for or against electronic cigarettes being available on the NHS? Do you agree with Public Health England’s findings? Have you recommended e-cigarettes to your patients? Tell us your insights.

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