In another note of progress in the war against tobacco-related disease, the United Kingdom’s National Health Service announced yesterday it has approved an e-cigarette to help people quit smoking.

This product, called Evoke, can now be dispensed by NHS physicians and clinics to help people quit smoking or cut down the amount of cigarettes smoked. The NHS has been promoting use of e-cigarettes for smoking cessation for more than a year, but use of an explicitly NHS-approved medication should enhance those efforts further.

Comparing the British approach to tobacco-control programming in the United States leads to some interesting conclusions. The Food and Drug Administration has formulated a prohibitively expensive approach to monitoring the safety of e-cigarettes. Within two years, no e-cigarettes will be permitted to be sold on the market unless they meet exacting FDA standards.

While the NHS is working to find solutions to on how to improve quality of care, the FDA is more concerned about unanticipated consequences, even though the science available to inform the two countries’ respective approaches is the same.

Fortunately, consumers in the United States can, for now, still purchase e-cigarettes. However, if action is not taken to amend the FDA’s so-called “deeming date” (the rules currently apply to any product brought to market since early 2007), these options may soon disappear.

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