asked Her Majesty's Government:
What assessment they have made of the impact which the availability of nicotine replacement therapy products in vending machines has on efforts to stop smoking; and [HL4822]
What steps they are taking to increase the availability of nicotine replacement therapy products for people trying to stop smoking; and [HL4823]
How they plan to increase access to nicotine replacement therapy products beyond pharmacies; and [HL4824]
What barriers exist to gaining access to nicotine replacement therapy products; and what assessment has been made of access to nicotine replacement therapy products through vending machines. [HL4825]
We have been committed to widening the take-up and accessibility of nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) since the Choosing Health White Paper in 2004.
The department has made sustained efforts to identify and remove barriers to access to nicotine replacement therapies for smokers wishing to quit.
To this end, the department has worked with the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency and the pharmaceutical industry and has revised the licensing rules on the use of NRT. This means that young people from 12 to 18 years of age, pregnant women, people with heart, kidney or liver disease and diabetics are now instructed that they can now use NRT and get it free on prescription from the National Health Service in line with the rest of the smoking population.
Restrictions on long-term use of NRT or in combination with smoking while trying to quit have also been relaxed.
The majority of NRT products are available from non-pharmacy outlets and work is in progress that may increase this number.
Although the best option is to quit smoking abruptly, if this is not possible, smokers may use some NRT products to cut down before stopping smoking altogether. In addition, some NRT products are also available to manage cravings in situations where smoking should be avoided such as:
where second-hand smoke may damage others, especially children, eg in enclosed spaces such as private vehicles or in the home;
before surgery; and
on a flight or during hospital stay.
We expect the take-up of NRT to rise significantly following 1 July when the “smoke-free” law took effect in England, as it did in Scotland when “smoke-free” was introduced there last year.
In addition, HM Treasury has reduced the VAT on NRT products from 17.5 per cent to 5 per cent for a period of one year from 1 July 2007 to encourage great use of this proven aid to successfully stopping smoking.