E-CIGARETTES are to be banned from hospital grounds within weeks, it has emerged.
Patients and visitors will not be allowed to use electronic cigarettes following a requirement of NHS boards that they ensure their grounds are smoke-free by April.
The Scottish Government said it is up to individual health boards if they ban the use of e-cigarettes.
Currently, all but one health board intends to completely ban the devices.
Only NHS Lothian will allow the restricted use of the so-called electronic nicotine delivery systems in designated outdoor areas away from entrances.
Alison McCallum, director of public health at NHS Lothian, said: “We do share the concerns of other health boards, but at the same time we need to ensure the success of our smoke-free policy in Lothian.
“It is essential that it is fully supported by patients, visitors, staff and trade unions because we recognise that some people will need more help than others.”
Other health boards claim there are concerns about the safety of the unregulated devices.
Julie White, chief operating officer at NHS Dumfries and Galloway, said: “Our directors of public health across the health boards in Scotland have issued some advice to us which basically states that until we have more evidence available to us around their use and their impact, they should be treated like any other nicotine product and they should not be used in the grounds.”
She said the policy could be reviewed if their regulatory position changes.
A spokesman for NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde also confirmed that e-cigarettes are not permitted as part of its smoke-free policy.
She added: “These products are currently not regulated and there are concerns over potential safety issues with the products. In addition, e-cigarettes mimic the habit and look of smoking and therefore provide negative role-modelling for young people.”
However, the move was criticised by anti-smoking health charity Ash Scotland.
Chief executive Sheila Duffy said: “There is a clear case for hospital grounds to be free from tobacco use, which is always dangerous.
“However, e-cigarette policies should not be so restrictive that they discourage smokers from trying an alternative that might help them to move away from tobacco.”
Some of the devices are expected to be licensed for medicinal use as nicotine replacement therapy, she said.
Simon Clark, director of smokers’ group Forest, blasted the move, saying: “Many smokers use e-cigs to cut down or quit tobacco, so it seems perverse to prohibit their use.
“Banning them is counter-productive because if both products are prohibited there will be no incentive to switch to e-cigarettes. Smokers will simply carry on smoking – ban or no ban.”
Margaret Watt, chairwoman of Scotland Patients’ Association, said there should be a total ban on smoking across all health boards.
“What NHS Lothian is doing is contradictory. To allow people to smoke e-cigarettes and not tobacco will lead to a situation where tobacco smokers will say they are being discriminated against.”
Under the terms of the Scottish Government’s tobacco control strategy, all NHS boards must make their hospital grounds smoke-free by the end of March.
A Scottish Government spokesman said: “It is a matter for boards to decide how they implement and enforce their smoke-free policies.
“This includes whether they choose to incorporate a ban on e-cigarettes.”
SCOTSMAN TABLET AND MOBILE APPS