Two NHS hospitals in the Midlands have opened vape shops in a controversial bid to stub out smoking.
The shops have begun selling e-cigarettes to patients and visitors, as the trust introduces £50 fines for those caught smoking.
It comes as the Government draws up plans which aim to eliminate smoking in Britain by 2030.
The proposals are also understood to compel the tobacco industry to fund programmes to help smokers quit, instead of the NHS funding it.
Sandwell General Hospital in West Bromwich and City Hospital, Birmingham, have both opened vape shops, run by Ecigwizard, selling products such as Jubbly Bubbly and Wizard’s Leaf.
The move is part of a wider policy to make the sites entirely “smoke-free” with cigarette shelters turned into vaping areas.
The ban on smoking is policed by security guards and CCTV cameras, while vaping outside is allowed, as long as it is away from doorways.
Public Health England has said all trusts should go smoke-free, but a third are yet to set a date.
Dr David Carruthers, trust medical director said: “The Trust’s board, and our clinical leaders, are united in the view that smoking kills. Given that simple truth, we can no longer support smoking on our sites, even in shelters or cars. Every alternative is available and we ask visitors and patients to work with us to enforce these changes. Giving up smoking saves you money and saves your health. No more passive smoking on our sites is a public health necessity.”
The number of adults using the devices has risen 70 per cent in just two years, while smoking rates have reached a record low.
Latest figures show nearly 15 per cent of British adults are still smokers.
E-cigarette use has risen from 3.7 per cent of adults in 2014 to 6.3 per cent in 2018, with most of those vaping doing so in order to help them quit smoking.
Public Health England has thrown its weight behind vaping, which it says is 95 per cent less harmful than smoking.
Last year it urged hospitals to start selling e-cigarettes and letting patients vape indoors – and even in bed.
Officials urged hospitals to replace smoking shelters with vaping lounges, and said patients should even be allowed to vape in their beds, if they had single rooms.
Joe Lucas, Head of Retail for Ecigwizard said: “We’re incredibly happy to announce the opening of our two shops at Sandwell and City Hospital, supporting the Trust’s smoke-free status. We are keen to offer vaping as an alternative to smoking, as a means to help people cut down or quit.”
John Dunne, director of the UK Vaping Industry Association, said: “As the government is expected to announce a plan to completely eradicate smoking by 2030, we’re going to need more people, organisations and institutions to take progressive and bold steps towards vaping, just like those taken by Sandwell and West Birmingham NHS Trust.
“Prohibitive policies that treat vaping in the same way as smoking simply continue to expose people to tobacco harm and run the risk of missing out on the massive public health prize represented by vaping.”
The Telegraph – Laura Donnelly – July 9, 2020.