Five Scottish health boards review e-cigarette policy
Five health boards in Scotland are considering lifting their ban on using electronic cigarettes in hospital grounds, BBC Scotland can reveal.
Health chiefs in Ayrshire and Arran, the Borders, Dumfries and Galloway, Lanarkshire and Tayside are reviewing their policies on "vaping" devices.
The board announced it would allow e-cigarettes after new evidence showed they can help smokers quit.
Tobacco smoking was banned from the grounds of all hospitals, health centres and GP surgeries in Scotland in April.
Each health board was given discretion over whether to allow "vaping" in outside areas.
At the time NHS Lothian was the only one of the 13 health boards to allow their restricted use.
The policy reviews follow guidance published by Health Scotland in November, which recommended that smoking cessation services should support people who used e-cigarettes to quit smoking.
It also stated that, in deciding whether to allow the outdoor use of e-cigarettes in hospital grounds, boards must balance the benefits to smokers with any concerns about the impact to non-smokers.
Earlier this year Public Health England reported that e-cigarettes are 95% less harmful than regular smoking.
Dr Carol Davidson, the director of public health at NHS Ayrshire and Arran, said the board "continually review" evidence on smoking and e-cigarettes so it can consider whether changes are needed to local policies and services.
She added: "We have reviewed the recent report from Public Health England as well as other recently published research and are currently discussing locally and with public health colleagues across Scotland."
A spokeswoman for NHS Dumfries and Galloway said evidence suggested the products were less harmful than smoking tobacco "but not harmless".
"Creating a smoke-free environment is an important part of helping people to stop smoking and as part of an ongoing local review process we will look again at our policy on e-cigarettes," she added.
A NHS Lanarkshire spokesman also confirmed it would review its e-cigarette ban.
"We are aware that new evidence is emerging in relation to electronic cigarettes and that the proposed Scottish government health bill which will make it an offence to smoke conventional cigarettes near a hospital building, will not include electronic cigarettes," he added.
"Given this, we intend to review our policy to take into account any new evidence and the proposed legislative change."
NHS Grampian said its policy was due to be reviewed in March and the health boards covering Fife and the Forth Valley said their vaping ban was "reviewed regularly".
The move has been welcomed by both pro-smoker and health-promoting groups, who were united in their condemnation of blanket ban of e-cigarettes in hospital grounds.
Sheila Duffy, chief executive of Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) Scotland, said that she hoped other health boards would follow the example of NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde.
She added: "The best evidence we have suggests that while electronic cigarettes are not entirely harmless they are much less harmful than using tobacco.
"We would encourage anyone who uses tobacco to try the various supports available for quitting, including electronic cigarettes.
"I would like people to see clearly that tobacco is the most harmful product, and making tobacco use subject to the strongest restrictions should help to get that message across."
Simon Clark, director of smokers' group Forest, said they strongly opposed the ban on smoking on hospital grounds.
He added: "E-cigarettes appeal to smokers because they mimic the act of smoking. There is no evidence they are harmful to the user so if the goal is smoking cessation, banning their use is completely counter-productive.
"If NHS boards are genuinely interested in harm reduction there should be no restrictions on the use of e-cigarettes on hospital grounds.
"Why discourage the use of a potentially game-changing device?"