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Royal College Of Physicians Says Failing To Support Alternatives For Smokers Is ‘As Negligent As Not Treating Cancer’

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Steve Birr Vice Reporter
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The U.K.’s Royal College of Physicians (RCP) is encouraging the use of electronic cigarettes in hospitals for smokers trying to quit, accusing health regulators of failing to take action.

A report released Tuesday by the RCP’s Tobacco Advisory Group advocates the the U.K.’s National Health Service (NHS) provide opt-out cessation aid to any smoker during hospital care, including giving accurate information on alternative smoking technologies. Experts with the RCP, a globally respected health body, say denying smokers a “cost-effective” alternative during care is “as negligent as not treating cancer.”

They argue health regulators must prioritize cigarette cessation as smoking related health complications currently cost the NHS roughly $1 billion annually. The report notes that quit rates double when smokers are identified and given medical support. The RCP’s Tobacco Advisory Group also recommends allowing the use of vapor products inside hospitals to help support those trying to quit and to maintain a smoke-free environment for patients and employees. (RELATED: American Cancer Society Is Now Advocating Vaping For Smokers Who Can’t Quit)

“Treating the more than one million smokers who are admitted to hospitals every year represents a unique opportunity for the NHS to improve patients’ lives, while also saving money,” Dr. John Britton, chair of the Tobacco Advisory Group, said in a statement. “For too long the NHS has failed to take responsibility for smoking, while prioritizing other, less effective activity. Smoking, the biggest avoidable cause of death and disability in the U.K., is hiding in plain sight in our hospitals and other NHS services; the NHS must end the neglect of this huge opportunity to improve our nation’s health.”

A recent survey by researchers at the University of East Anglia’s Norwich Medical School in the U.K. is bolstering the image of e-cigarettes as a cessation tool for struggling smokers, finding the devices “support long-term smoking abstinence.”

Public Health England, an arm of the U.K.’s Department of Health, published an independent review of existing research on e-cigarettes on Feb. 6 from experts in the tobacco field. The review shows the devices are accelerating annual declines in the country’s smoking rate.

Martin Dockrell, head of Public Health England’s tobacco control efforts, argues e-cigarettes should be available for sale in U.K. hospitals and also agrees vaping should be permitted in single-occupancy rooms as well as designated communal rooms. He says former smoke shelters for patients at hospitals should be converted to vape shelters, and all campus smoking should be prohibited.

The U.K. currently has the second lowest smoking rate in all of Europe, and officials stress vaping is a big part of the reason.

The U.K.’s Department of Health released a policy paper on e-cigarettes July 18, 2017, backing the devices as useful tools to quit smoking and eliminate secondhand risks to the public. The department’s Five Year Tobacco Control plan aims to significantly slash the overall smoking rate, and argues that expanding public access to vaping will help achieve this goal.

Health officials in the country hope to bring the smoking rate down from 15.5 percent to 12 percent by the end of 2022. The report states that the government wants to “minimize the risk of harm” to the smoker and those around them by “maximizing the availability of safer alternatives to smoking.”

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