THE NHS is blocking access to free IVF treatment for couples who use e-cigarettes or nicotine patches.
The move is being increasingly adopted by health authorities despite there being little evidence that vaping harms infertility or unborn children.
At least 16 NHS authorities in England, known as clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) now refuse to fund IVF for users of e-cigarettes, according to a survey for The Mail on Sunday.
The results come just days after Public Health England advised GPs to tell patients that vaping is far less harmful than smoking.
Supporters of the move claim that no amount of nicotine is safe in pregnancy while critics say it is just a cost-cutting move.
Aileen Feeney, of charity Fertility Network, said: “This is another example of how health bosses are trying to ration NHS fertility services by introducing arbitrary access criteria.”
The CCGs that have introduced the measure include all ten in Greater Manchester as well as NHS Crawley, NHS Horsham and Mid-Sussex, NHS Ipswich and East Sussex, NHS West Suffolk, NHS Milton Keynes, and NHS Nene in Northamptonshire.
Of the 117 CCGs that responded to the survey, 101 said they had no e-cigarette restrictions in their IVF policies.
Some said they were considering changing their policies, while others had no plans to do so.
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Research so far has not found any definitive evidence of a link.
In 2015, authors of a US review said: “No data exists on the consequences of e-cigarette use on reproductive health, nor on e-cigarette exposure to the foetus.”
Professor Peter Hajek, of London’s Wolfson Institute for Preventive Medicine, said ‘vapers’ used e-cigarettes to stop smoking and warned lumping the two together risked sending out the false message that pregnant women who smoked had nothing to gain by switching to vaping.
But Dr Raj Mathur, secretary of the British Fertility Society, said he could understand why some NHS bosses were refusing to fund IVF for nicotine-users, “when that drug is not known to be safe” in pregnancy.
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