UK Health Authority Advises Doctors to Back Vaping
UK Health chiefs in Britain have thrown their collective weight behind vaping as the ultimate way to give up smoking, saying the country’s doctors should recommended e-cigarettes to smokers as an effective cessation method.
The development comes amid a growing body of scientific and medical research in the UK in recent years that has investigated vaping and found little or no harmful effects. The Royal College of Physicians, arguably the nation’s most prestigious medical institution, has said e-cigarettes should be widely promoted as a way to stop smoking. As a result, most medical organisations, including the UK National Health Service, now advise smokers to turn to vaping as a way to get off tobacco and become healthier.
Britain loses close to 100,000 people a year to tobacco-related diseases, including people who have developed conditions and diseases from passively inhaling secondhand smoke. In April, the fast-growing British vaping sector, said to be worth around £1 billion, held its first-ever vaping awareness and education campaign, called VApril.
NICE Vaping Support
The new backing of vapingcomes from the UK’s National Institute for Health and Care Excellence. NICE is an advisory body that issues guidance for the country’s much-admired Health Service, which provides free healthcare to UK citizens. Now, this new guidance developed with the Health Service says doctors should tell their patients who are smokers that vaping is far safer than cigarettes and they should switch to get off them.
The Health Service already supports vaping as an effective smoking-cessation method, as it advises people to start using vape gear during its annual Stoptober stop-smoking campaign held in October. “E-cigarettes are particularly effective when combined with support from local stop-smoking services — people who choose this route have some of the highest quitting success rates,” Stoptober advises.
The new NICE advisory was designed to end conflicting messages and advice about vaping from various UK health bodies, which is not altogether surprising given that vaping is still relatively new.
“For people who smoke and who are using, or are interested in using, a nicotine-containing e‑cigarette on general sale to quit smoking, explain that … many people have found them helpful to quit smoking cigarettes,” the NICE advisory to the Health Service and its doctors says. It adds that “the evidence suggests that e‑cigarettes are substantially less harmful to health than smoking but are not risk free.”
Overall it says health managers should use ” sustainability and transformation plans, health and wellbeing strategies, and any other relevant local strategies and plans to ensure evidence-based stop-smoking interventions and services are available for everyone who smokes.”
And NICE adds that particular attention should be paid to specific groups that may be at high risk of harm due to tobacco use. These, it says, include people suffering from mental health issues as well as those who misuse substances and patients with health problems that are made worse by smoking. It also singles out various communities that it says have a “particularly high smoking prevalence” — manual workers, travellers, and lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans people.
Public Health and Vaping
UK Health Convey’s Benefits
Earlier this year, another of Britain’s health authorities, Public Health England (PHE), issued revised advice about e-cigarettes and found that “vaping conveys substantial health benefits” compared to smoking and therefore smokers should start vaping instead. If more smokers did make the change, it could result in at least 20,000 successful new quits annually, it projected.
But the health body also found that thousands of smokers had false information or views about vaping and believed it was as harmful as smoking. Because of that, PHE estimated that around 40% of smokers in the UK had never tried an e-cigarette and just carried on smoking.
It also found that vaping had led to an “accelerated drop in smoking rates” in the UK and that e-cigarettes were associated with “improved quit success rates,” cementing vaping as one of the leading ways to stop using tobacco. Equally important was PHE’s finding that there’s widescale misunderstanding about nicotine, the substance that smokers, after all, desire. It said “less than 10% of adults understand that most of the harms to health from smoking are not caused by nicotine” and that this had possibly caused a plateauing of e-cig use in the UK to around 3 million users.
PHE added that “the evidence does not support the concern that e-cigarettes are a route into smoking among young people (youth smoking rates in the UK continue to decline, regular use is rare and is almost entirely confined to those who have smoked).”
Vaping Doctor on Call
VApril, the vaping awareness campaign, was fronted by one of the country’s leading medics, Dr Christian Jessen. He said he got involved because he was disappointed so many smokers had never considered vaping instead and he wanted the vaping safety message to get out.
“I personally believe vaping has overwhelming potential to help smokers break their habit, and this is important because stopping smoking is the single most significant step that people can make to improve their health. Vaping is backed by PHE, who say electronic cigarettes are 95% safer than smoking,” he said.
The VApril organisers said it was the biggest such campaign of its type ever run in the country and reflected how far the UK vaping sector had come in a short time.
“The challenge for the industry, government and the public health community is to get across the message that e-cigarettes are a very small risk compared to smoking and that nearly 3m smokers are now vaping, with a significant number having switched over altogether,” said organising director John Dunne. “VApril aims to be the starting point for more smokers to quit their habit.”
UK Health and VApril
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