In an effort to “clarify” its position on vaping, NHS Health Scotland has commented on the activity.
E-cigs are seen as an easier way to quit or cut down on smoking. It is estimated that 9 million people still smoke in the UK despite the rise in popularity of e-cigs since 2012.
In a statement Dr Andrew Fraser, Director of public health from NHS Health Scotland, said: “E-cigarettes have been around for a number of years now and we are learning more and more about them but I think it is safe to say that they are a lot safer than cigarettes.
“If we are trying to help people make a decision about giving up smoking tobacco then e-cigarettes are a good option to consider.”
Vaping is not available on NHS prescription but Dr Fraser has said that it is an option for those trying to give up smoking. He said: “We would encourage people to consider them and we would encourage people providing smoking cessation serves to offer them as an option to people who are willing to pay for them.”
Dr Fraser continued to say that e-cigs “weren’t anything like as dangerous as cigarettes” and that reports suggesting that the potential harm caused by vaping is similar to that caused by smoking is incorrect.
“They contain nicotine, which is addictive in itself, and they contain a number of other combustible materials.
“But if you take it all in the round and compare it with the alternative they are a lot less harmful than cigarettes.”
Dr Fraser also advised against “double running”, which is the process of using both tobacco and e-cigarettes.
In a controversial move last year NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde using its own discretion to allow restricted use of e-cigs within their hospital grounds on the basis of evidence showing they can help smokers to quit.
Sheila Duffy, chief executive of Ash Scotland, an anti-smoking charity, welcomed the statement. She said: “Tobacco is lethal and I’d encourage anyone who smokes to find a way of quitting that works for them, which could include using e-cigarettes, and to make use of the free NHS stop-smoking support available to help.”