Are vaporisers the key to finally kicking the smoking habit?
08:31 27 September 2014
Cautious support from Bromley and Bexley health chiefs
Health experts across Bexley and Bromley boroughs say they support the use of the new breed of e-cigarettes as a vital weapon in the arsenal for smokers to finally kick the habit.
The controversial new devices have split opinion, but with the dawn of October comes the dawn of Stoptober - a major nationwide campaign to encourage smokers to stub it out for the month.
And if they make it a month, their prospects of breaking their addiction are dramatically enhanced.
But it has reignited the debate over the electronic devices. Battery-powered, users inhale a water vapour containing nicotine and the flavour of their choice.
Without any tobacco or the smell of traditional cigarettes, they are becoming increasingly popular alternatives - especially as the liquid flavours cost just a fraction of the cost.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) and British Medical Association (BMA) have both expressed concerns about the devices - known as vaporisers - with worries the chemicals they contain are not always fully disclosed.
However, many health professionals seem to be in agreement that they are much less dangerous than combustible cigarettes.
Mary Yates, matron of the South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust (SLAM), which encompasses Bethlem Royal Hospital in Beckenham, said: “At the moment there is no robust, researched evidence to support using e-cigarettes as a cut down or a quitting aid, but anecdotally there is a lot of support from users saying they found them enormously helpful. I even have a few friends who have used them.”
SLAM will be going completely smoke free permanently from October onwards, with patients, carers, staff and visitors not allowed to smoke on any of the sites.
Ms Yates led the smoke-free pilot last year and believes that if e-cigarettes are what help people to stop smoking, it can only be a good thing.
However, due to the lack of scientific evidence into them, the trust is encouraging people to use medically licensed alternatives first such as nicotine patches.
“We are really placing huge effort to try and introduce our patients to smoking cessation organisations,” she added.
“We want people to stop smoking and because of that we know that some people may want to use e-cigarettes to help them to quit. We have decided that we are going to support that.
“If they prefer to use e-cigarettes then we are going to look favourably upon that because we think they are far less harmful than the tobacco or the combustible cigarettes they have previously been using.
“There are about 4,000 chemicals in a cigarette. If you are going to use an e-cigarette then it doesn’t have those things in. It’s not a completely safe thing to do, but it’s much less harmful.”
A report commissioned by Public Health England written by Professor John Britton and Dr Ilze Bogdanovica, outlined key findings regarding electronic cigarettes.
It said: “The emergence of electronic cigarettes and the likely arrival of more effective nicotine-containing devices currently in development provides a radical alternative to tobacco, and evidence to date suggests that smokers are willing to use these products in substantial numbers. Electronic cigarettes, and other nicotine devices, therefore offer vast potential health benefits, but maximising those benefits while minimising harms and risks to society requires appropriate regulation, careful monitoring, and risk management.”
Bexley Council will also be supporting Stoptober, with their stop smoking service helping to promote the campaign each week.
Cabinet member for community safety and leisure, Alex Sawyer, said: “There is no safe level of tobacco smoking. Complete abstinence from tobacco use is the consistent message to any smoker as continued use leads to premature death and ill-health for one in every two users.
“Although electronic cigarettes have not been proved harmless, they are generally considered significantly less harmful than smoking and can be beneficial in terms of providing smokers with a safer alternative to smoking. However, Bexley’s public health stop smoking team would only advocate e-cig or vaping as a complete replacement for smoking not as a ‘cutting down on smoking’ mechanism.”