This is an unprecedented turnaround. Electronic cigarettes, once described as a new kind of health risk, are now being promoted as a public health lifeline – at least in Britain. However, if we want to make full use of their potential, medical workers need to put away their prejudices and embrace them more enthusiastically. The principle of vaping is clear. Smoking is one of the leading causes of death and disease throughout the world, leading to heart disease, strokes and cancers. While in theory the flavorings in e-cigarettes could harm the lungs, vaping has been calculated to carry at most 5% of the risk of smoking.
Quitting smoking is hard and around 90% of attempts end in failure. However, vaping makes it easier to quit. It is estimated that when people become vapers, the failure rate drops to 60%. For once, Britain has the most enlightened and progressive position to a social ill. In many nations, the official position is that the risks of vaping are unknown, so it should be discouraged. In nations like Australia, it is even illegal.
On the other hand, the Public Health England has long supported vaping. This week it called on companies and even hospitals to introduce vaping room, like the old-style smoking room.
But if we want more people to switch, there is another change which needs to happen. Vaping is not as easy to take up as smoking. There are many kinds of products available on the market. The most basic version – cigalikes, does not give a quick-enough nicotine hit to meet the needs of most of the smokers so smokers starting with these often relapse, said Caitlin Notley of the University of East Anglia, UK.
More sophisticated e-cigarettes require buying several items of kit like the device, nicotine e-liquid and chargers. Besides, some people need suggestions to start off. New users may also benefit from suggestions on dosing and even how to inhale.
At present, those who offer such help are often the employees of the specialist vape shops springing up everywhere. A few doctors work with these outlets, visiting to offer health education materials and encouraging their patients to visit, Notley’s team found in a study out today.
This is not common practice, though, partly because e-cigarettes have a shady reputation. And not everyone is eager to get health suggestions from vaping shops, which usually look like bars or cell phone stores.
In theory, pharmacies would be ideally placed to step in but anti-vaping mood makes them reluctant. In 2014, the Royal Pharmaceutical Society told its members not to stock e-cigarettes at all, though many stores flout this, and that position is now under review.
Notley is calling for more health professionals to work with vaping shop employees, who are usually former smokers and know their wares very well. “Most pharmacists can definitely learn from vape stores,” she says.
This is not the most traditional way to solve a public health problem. But when you see a lifeline it makes sense to grab it with both hands.
Ryan is a writer, editor and content creator who spends most of his time bringing the interesting, entertaining, original and well-written articles to vapers. He believes that vaping is not only a healthier alternative to smoking, but also a great experience of life.