As part of the government's efforts to cut smoking rates using a tool it says is less harmful than smoking, England is set to become the first country in the world to prescribe e-cigarettes.

CNN reports that England's National Health Service could start prescribing medically licensed e-cigarettes to smokers.

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Updated guidance recently published by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency(MHRA) paves the way for medicinally licensed e-cigarette products to be prescribed for those smokers who want to quit tobacco.

Makers of e-cigarette products can now approach the MHRA with their products, which will go through the same regulatory approval process as other medicines available on the UK's National Health Service.

In a media statement issued on Friday, England's health ministry had this to say:

E-cigarettes contain nicotine and are not risk free, but expert reviews from the UK and US have been clear that the regulated e-cigarettes are less harmful than smoking.

The statement went on to say that e-cigarettes have been shown "to be highly effective in supporting those trying to quit". Sajid Javid, Health and Social Care Secretary, said:

Opening the door to a licensed e-cigarette prescribed on the NHS has the potential to tackle the stark disparities in smoking rates across the country, helping people stop smoking wherever they live and whatever their background.

Many health experts have concluded that regulated e-cigarettes are less harmful than smoking even though several critics have voiced concerns that many, particularly younger people, get hooked on vaping despite never having smoked.

Keep in mind that the World Health Organization says all forms of tobacco are harmful and there is no safe level of exposure. For more on the story, visit CNN's website here.

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