Members Club Exclusive Early Magazine VAPOUROUND-MAGAZINE-ISSUE-22-WEB-compressed - Page 83

Vaping in Ireland is still lagging behind in progress compared to neighbouring countries despite evidence to suggest e-cigarettes are twice as effective in smoking cessation than conventional methods such as patches or gum. Award-winning medical journalist, health analyst and newspaper contributor Dr Muiris Houston is calling out the stigma stirrers, health professionals and politicians who could be doing more to be pro-vaping and anti-smoking in Ireland. In the run up to Ash Wednesday and No Smoking Day, Dr Houston wrote in The Irish Times: “It’s time for Ivory Tower residents to climb down and inhale real life in the smoking trenches.” Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent, a popular time for many in Ireland to banish bad habits such as smoking, so Dr Houston’s column was well-timed. Twenty years ago, one third of Irish adults were smokers. In 2019 that figure has fallen to one-fifth, with the UK’s closest neighbour being a worldwide leader in implementing a widespread smoking ban in 2006, followed by tobacco product warnings and year-on-year increases in the cost of a pack of cigarettes. In 2016, the Irish Government also banned smoking in cars transporting children. The average cost of a pack of 20 cigarettes in Ireland today sits at €12.70 – that’s approximately £10.80 – a rise of 50c in the last national budget. According to the most recent Healthy Ireland survey, 80,000 Irish people have given up smoking over the past three years. The government-led initiative says, “At least 5,500 people die from diseases caused by tobacco use.” By April 2019, over 3,500 Irish people had quit smoking so far this year, according to figures from the Health Service Executive (HSE). One may wonder why, then, Ireland has yet to embrace the e-cigarette in such a way as its next-door neighbours have, if it is to meet its tobacco-free target in five years. In a previous issue of this magazine, we reported that Irish millennials are smoking too much, despite a rise in spending on vaping. Speaking to RTÉ’s Morning Ireland, Dr Paul ­Kavanagh of the Royal College of Surgeons said more than one- in-five people aged 15 or over in Ireland smokes, adding that this figure increases to one-in-three of 25 to 34-year- olds. On the use of e-cigarettes in smoking cessation, he said: “The risk profile associated with vaping is different and that has been in a number of large reports.” At the launch of the latest Healthy Ireland survey in October 2018, the Department of Health in Ireland said in a press release: “In the last 12 months 40 percent of smokers have made an attempt to quit.” How much of an involvement did e-cigarettes play in those quit attempts? Forty-one percent used e-cigarettes to quit, according to the survey figures. From these results, we also know that 30 percent of those who have successfully quit smoking in Ireland between 2017 and 2018 are current users of e-cigarettes. Fast forward a few months to this spring, when the HSE published advice on vaping on its quit smoking website for the first time. This saw the addition of a designated section for vaping under an, ‘I want to quit’ drop down menu on the site. However, still doesn’t endorse e-cigarettes to smokers who want to quit. It plainly states: “E-cigarettes are still fairly new, so we don't yet know how safe they are or if they help people stop smoking. Because of this, we don't recommend e-cigarettes to help you quit smoking.” On the move, the HSE said its decision to include a section on vaping on its official online stop smoking support service does not represent a change in government policy but followed a re- evaluation of information provided on the site in recent months. Whether or not the Irish health agencies will give the green light to e-cigarettes in a similar way that Public Health England has so forcefully in recent years across the Irish Sea remains to be seen. If 41 percent of successful quit attempts aided by e-cigarettes is anything to go by, vaping may be key to Ireland reaching its tobacco-free target by 2025. “It’s time for Ivory Tower residents to climb down and inhale real life in the smoking trenches.” – Irish Times columnist Dr Muiris Hou ston VM22 | 83