There’s good news for those wanting to give up smoking in 2016 – or at least those who want to do so by switching to e-cigarettes.

The Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has awarded a licence to e-Voke, an electronic cigarette device made by British American Tobacco – meaning it could become available on NHS prescription.

The company also has the backing of the Department of Health, which commissioned a report into ‘vaping’ in 2015 and concluded that “e-cigarettes have potential to help smokers quit”.

A spokesperson from the Department of Health said: “The medicines regulator – the MHRA – is responsible for licensing products for medicinal use.

“Once there is a licensed product available, it could be prescribed alongside other nicotine replacement therapies.

“Public Health England reported last year that e-cigarettes are 95% safer than smoking tobacco. However, the best thing a smoker can do for their health is to quit smoking. We keep all the latest evidence under review.”

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A spokeswoman for British American Tobacco said: “Nicovations Limited, part of British American Tobacco's Next Generation Products division, has been granted a licence by the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency for its rechargeable electronic cigarette, e-Voke. 

“E-Voke uses cartridges containing pharmaceutical grade nicotine. We are now reviewing the commercialisation of e-Voke.”

The vice chairman of the Royal College of General Practitioners, Dr Tim Ballard, questioned the funding of e-cigarettes on the NHS, however, and called for more research to be carried out.

“We welcome e-cigarettes as a safer alternative to cigarettes, but it would be unreasonable for the NHS to be asked to actually fund lifestyle choices for people,” he said.

“Potentially, there may be a place for the prescription of e-Voke as part of a smoking cessation programme,” he added, “but GPs would be very wary of prescribing them until there was clear evidence of their safety and of their efficacy in helping people to quit.”