A leading researcher in the field of tobacco harm reduction says doctors have an “ethical obligation” to recommend vaping to smokers who cannot quite cigarettes.
Colin Mendelsohn, associate professor and tobacco treatment specialist at the University of New South Wales in Australia, conducted a comprehensive review of existing research on vaping published in the Internal Medicine Journal of the Royal Australian College of Physicians Friday. Based upon his latest analysis, he argues medical providers have more than enough peer-reviewed research to back up claims e-cigarettes reduce harm from combustible tobacco and to recommend the devices to smokers trying to quit, reported Vaping Post.
Mendelsohn points to countries where vapor products are widely available, such as the U.S. and the U.K., which are seeing significant declines in their smoking rates. He also noted recent studies showing that vaping among smokers is associated with a higher success rate for quitting cigarettes.
“Medical practitioners have a duty of care to provide the best possible management at each encounter,” Mendelsohn said in a statement Friday. “Withholding a legitimate treatment option that could prevent a life-threatening illness is a breach of that obligation. For patients who have repeatedly failed to quit smoking with conventional strategies an e-cigarette is a legitimate, evidence-based option for reducing harm. Their use could lead to substantial improvements in public health in Australia.”
Harm reduction advocates like Mendelsohn have been fighting to overturn Australia’s current restrictions of vapor products. Vapor devices themselves are legal in the country. However, the Therapeutic Goods Administration classifies liquid nicotine as a poison. Meanwhile, cigarettes remain legal and smoking rate declines in Australia have plateaued due to the restricted access to alternative technologies.
“In Australia between 2013 and 2016, the smoking rate has not declined significantly for the first time in decades, despite very high cigarette prices, plain packaging and strict tobacco control laws,” said Mendelsohn. “However, in countries where which support vaping, smoking rates are continuing to fall, faster than ever, in some cases.”
The U.K. currently has the second lowest smoking rate in all of Europe, and officials say vaping is a big part of the reason.
Martin Dockerell, head of Public Health England’s tobacco control efforts, recently argued e-cigarettes should be available for sale in U.K. hospitals and vaping should be permitted in single-occupancy rooms as well as designated communal rooms.
The suggestion came in the wake of an independent review of existing research on e-cigarettes published Feb. 6 by Public Health England, which confirmed the devices eliminate 95 percent of the risks of combustible cigarettes, because the majority of cancer causing chemicals are released when tobacco is burned.
Researchers estimate that roughly 20,000 smokers are using e-cigarettes to quit smoking each year.
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