Budget 2021 should supercharge ‘vape to quit’ smoking cessation programs already well established across New Zealand’s health sector. In fact, adopting one initiative now underway at several NHS hospitals in the UK would be a brilliant step for Smokefree Aotearoa, says a leading tobacco harm reduction advocate.
“Our Government is now determined to get Smokefree 2025 back on track. Budget Day on 20 May is the first opportunity to put its money where its mouth is. Our District Health Boards and Maori health organizations have had huge success with switching smokers into vapers. It’s time for the Government to back them more,” says Nancy Loucas, co-director of Aotearoa Vapers Community Advocacy (AVCA).
The new publicly-funded initiative in the United Kingdom sees smokers offered stop smoking advice and e-cigarette ‘starter packs’ when they are discharged from an emergency department. The encouragement and support to quit are given to all patients who smoke including those who have not considered quitting before.
“The UK leads the way with its positive approach and support for vaping. Public Health England has repeatedly endorsed vaping and has never wavered from its scientific conclusion that it’s 95% less harmful than smoking. Now, the latest Cochrane review reinforces the effective role vaping plays in reducing smoking rates across the globe.
Based in the UK, Cochrane is an independent network, involving 130 countries, health professionals, and researchers. With the strategic goal of putting Cochrane evidence at the heart of health decision-making all over the world, it represents the gold standard for high-quality, trusted health information.
Titled ‘Electronic cigarettes for smoking cessation (Review),’ the Cochrane Library recently published an update on vaping.
Reviewing 56 international studies, involving 12,804 adults who smoked, it found that e-cigarettes could increase the number of people who stop smoking compared to other forms of nicotine replacement therapy, such as chewing gum and patches.
It comes as a Georgetown University-led study published in the journal Population Health Metrics concludes that nicotine vaping in the US could help prevent 1.8 million premature deaths and see 38.9 million life-years gained in a span of 47 years. The latest American study adds to mounting evidence on the health benefits of smokers becoming vapers.
“Health officials in the UK believe tens of thousands of Brits stop smoking every year after switching to vaping. In fact, the latest PHE estimates show that around 2.7 million adults now vape in England alone, compared to nearly seven million who smoke tobacco.
“What has happened over in the UK over the past decade is an impressive story. It’s one our Government needs to investigate if it is serious about rebooting New Zealand’s 2011 ambition of being smoke-free by 2025,” she says.
The Government’s discussion document titled ‘Proposals For A Smokefree Aotearoa 2025 Action Plan’ is currently out for public consultation. The Ministry of Health’s proposals are heavily focused on making tobacco products less available, less affordable, less appealing, and less addictive.
However, AVCA says the role of vaping in achieving national smoke-free status – where 5% of less of population smoke – needs to be elevated to be a cornerstone component of New Zealand’s smoke-free action plan.
“If Smokefree Aotearoa is to ever be achieved, the New Zealand Government needs to back the evidence and commit the money, like the UK is doing. There has been a lot of talk over the past decade, yet Maori are still 40 years off being smoke-free. That’s disgraceful!
“This Government enjoys a historic MMP majority and is perfectly placed to reduce the 5,000 deaths smoking currently causes in New Zealand every year. In past Budgets, Finance Ministers have ramped up tobacco tax. Here’s hoping on 20 May, we hear less about tobacco excise and more about vape programs,” says Loucas.