Electronic cigarettes will be regulated in the same way as tobacco in a move to make the products safer, it has been announced.
The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) will regulate the products to ensure they work.
According to the government, making safe and effective products available for people who smoke can help them cut down or quit.
Professor John Britton, chair of the Royal College of Physicians (RCP) Tobacco Advisory Group said: “Electronic cigarettes and other nicotine-containing devices offer massive potential to improve public health, by providing smokers with a much safer alternative to tobacco.
“This is a pragmatic yet radical approach that could spare millions of smokers from premature death.”
Smoking is the biggest single cause of avoidable death, killing 80,000 people in England each year.
Chief medical officer Professor Dame Sally Davies said: “While it’s best to quit completely, I realise that not every smoker can and it is much better to get nicotine from safer sources such as nicotine replacement therapy.
“More and more people are using e-cigarettes, so it’s only right these products are properly regulated to be safe and work effectively.”
Recent public health guidance published by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) supports the use of licensed nicotine products in helping people to cut down or stop smoking.
The quality of NCPs can vary considerably which is why licensing them as medicines will allow people to have the confidence that they are safe, are of the right quality and work.