Couples Are Being Refused Free IVF Treatment If They Use E-cigarettes
Couples desperate for a baby who can’t conceive traditionally are being refused free IVF treatment if they use e-cigarettes or nicotine patches.
According to a survey carried out by The Daily Mail, an increasing number of health authorities in England are adopting this type of policy – despite the fact that there is no evidence that vaping harms unborn children.
Of the 117 NHS authorities (clinical commissioning groups, or CCGs) in England who responded to this survey, 16 are already refusing to fund IVF for e-cigarette users, with 101 saying they had no current e-cigarette restrictions in their IVF policies, although some of them stated they have plans to implement similar policies in the future.
All of this despite the recommendations coming out of Public Health England who have recently advised GPs to tell patients that vaping is far less harmful than smoking, and even supported vaping in hospitals.
Some critics are saying this is just a cost-cutting move.
“This is another example of how health bosses are trying to ration NHS fertility services by introducing arbitrary access criteria.” – Aileen Feeney, Fertility Network
Professor Peter Hajek, of London’s Wolfson Institute for Preventive Medicine, said ‘vapers’ used e-cigarettes to stop smoking and has warned lumping vapers together with smokers risks sending out the false message that pregnant women who smoked had nothing to gain by switching to vaping.
All ten CCGs across Greater Manchester have adopted a ‘no e-cig or nicotine patches’ policy for IVF applicants. Others with a similar stance include NHS Crawley, NHS Horsham and Mid-Sussex, NHS Ipswich and East Sussex, NHS West Suffolk, NHS Milton Keynes, and NHS Nene in Northamptonshire.
In the absence of hard evidence about whether vaping is harmful to fertility and pregnancy, a plethora of potentially confusing policies has developed. Two CCGs in Devon said there was ‘insufficient evidence currently to suggest nicotine replacement therapies or electronic cigarettes have a negative effect’ on fertility treatment so ‘patients who use them should not be excluded from NHS treatment’.
More research is needed on the subject to conclude whether or not e-cigarettes are a risk factor for pregnancy. In 2015, authors of an evidence review said:
“It is well known that there are over 4000 chemicals in tobacco cigarettes, and at least 55 of them are known carcinogens. Because e-cigarettes undoubtedly contain fewer chemicals than combustible tobacco cigarettes, they are viewed as being a safer alternative to smoking.”