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Time for those against electronic cigarettes in Australia to come around

While the debate over the use of electronic cigarettes in Australia continues to rage, a recent article by Margaret Cunningham posted to The Pharmaceutical Journal (UK) suggests that the tide should be turning in favour of e-cigarettes.

Ms Cunningham had recently attended the E-Cigarette Summit at the Royal Society in London earlier in November, a meeting which was set up to debate the use of e-cigarettes as a viable way to quit smoking. As a pharmacist and someone who advises people about giving up cigarettes, she concluded that the use of e-cigarettes was definitely one way to help improve a smoker’s health.

She said that in her experience a number of licensed nicotine replacement therapies (NRT) often did not work and that since it had been shown it was better for smokers to switch to electronic cigarettes than smoke, then perhaps their use should gain wider support.

And it seems that a number of the experts who attended the summit agreed. .

Peter Hajeck, professor of clinical psychology and Robert West, professor of health psychology from London University, told attendees that all smokers would benefit from making the switch to vaping. Not only that, but they made the point there would be health benefits for passive smokers as well.

Other researchers also reported on the evidence that showed a “stark contrast in harm reduction between cigarettes and e-cigarettes” along with studies into how the use of electronic cigarettes, in trails and in practice, had helped smokers quit the habit.

Professor West told the summit electronic cigarettes gave the same quit rates as NRT and with health professional support the success rate would improve even further.

Electronic cigarettes most popular method to quit smoking

According to Professor West, the recent  Smoking Toolkit study showed that since 2012 there had been a major increase in the use of e-cigarettes to stop smoking and that since 2013 people preferred their use over other nicotine replacement therapies. He said with around 30 per cent of quit attempts involving the use of e-cigarettes, they had become the most popular method used by smokers to quit.

The summit also looked at the experience of those who used electronic cigarettes while still smoking. It was concluded that even by doing both, smokers were still more likely to quit in future, as every attempt to stop smoking actually increased the chance of eventually quitting for good.

Louise Ross, a Stop Smoking Services manager from Leicester told the summit she believed there should be a broad-minded approach with regard to the use of electronic cigarettes. She reported her service had in fact started recommending e-cigarette use to their clients and had since seen a 20 per cent increase in the quit rate.

Probably most surprising, at least from an Australian perspective, was that research presented by Cancer Research UK and Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) gave positive views about the use of electronic cigarettes as a way to quit smoking. So far similar organisations in Australia have been fairly fervent in their opposition to the use of e-cigarettes, citing a fear that it would normalise smoking.

However Ms Cunningham reported that it was time for those against the use of e-cigarettes to “come around” in light of what she said was the growing evidence that their use was in fact a definite aid to finally giving up cigarettes.

Her final conclusion: e-cigarettes should be sold and promoted in pharmacies. Vaping is not smoking.

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Jacqui Munn

Jacqui Munn

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