Creating smoke-free NHS sites has remained prominent on the Government’s Tobacco Control Plan agenda in recent times. Many experts have argued that vaping should be encouraged to keep smoking rates within NHS grounds at a minimum. However, studies show that many sites, particularly mental health units, still ban vaping or fail to provide designated areas for vapers.

One of the reasons for opposing vaping at NHS sites was the concern of potential fire risk from recharging e-cigarettes. A previous Estates and Facilities Alert positioned electronic cigarettes at a greater fire risk than other devices including mobile phones.

At the beginning of December, an updated alert was released. The relevance of the update was that it suggested e-cigarettes should be grouped in with other electrical devices such as phones and tablets, rather than being given the previous harsher treatment.

The update stated, “It seems likely that the risk of fire and electrical fault is similar to other domestic electrical products, indicating that EC [e-cigarettes] should be subject to the same guidelines and safety mechanisms”.

The new guidance distributed to the relevant parties which included Directors, Health & Safety Managers and Fire Safety Officers. Recipients were instructed to “update fire policies, risk assessments procedures and training programmes as required to reflect new guidance.”

Whilst health and safety updates may not be the most riveting topic we’ve discussed, this update does carry significance. It suggests advocacy for the use of e-cigarettes in and around these sites, which is certainly a step in the right direction.

Public Health England (PHE) and the Science and Technology Committee (STC) have both encouraged vaping to help reach their goal of smoke-free NHS sites. The fact that the NHS has reviewed this fire safety policy in relation to e-cigarettes shows that guidance on vaping is being considered and actioned.

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