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Hospital Ecig Bans Are Wrong

Expert claims ecig bans harm patients, both smokers and non-smokers.

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All bar one Scottish health board are planning to ban or have banned vaping from all buildings and surrounding grounds. David Shaw, a Swiss researcher, has written an article for the British Medical Journal calling the move shortsighted and says they will be “harming the health of patients and the wider public”.

“Health boards in Scotland have banned the use of e-cigarettes, but this presents a missed public health opportunity,” writes Shaw. “Hospitals should encourage the use of free e-cigarettes on hospital grounds to improve the health of patients and the wider public.”

He noted that the boards all claimed the move was justified because more evidence was needed for the safety of electronic cigarettes. “The NHS is harming the health of patients and the wider public - substantial evidence shows that they are safe, and overwhelming evidence shows that they are much safer for users than conventional cigarettes."

“Permitting e-cigarette use on hospital grounds would provide much more positive role modelling for children,” the expert points out, “than seeing pregnant women and patients with cancer smoking conventional cigarettes in sub-zero temperatures at the main entrance to hospitals.”

Shaw added that the recent revelation from Public Health England (regarding vaping being 95% safer than smoking) simply added to the need for a rethink. “Patients should not be denied an opportunity to access a smoking cessation aid on hospital grounds to help them improve their health; it's inconsistent to ban e-cigarettes while allowing the use of nicotine patches and gum.”

He pointed out the rather obvious piece of common sense that if a patient were to use an ecig instead of smoking while staying in hospital it could well act as a route out of smoking for them.

Of course, Shaw’s article has not met with a positive response from some in the medical profession.

“If electronic cigarettes were the solution to tobacco addiction they would have reduced smoking prevalence dramatically by now in countries where they are freely available. This has not happened,” said Macé M. Schuurmans, a pulmonologist from Zurich. Schuurmans has probably not seen Professor West’s research demonstrating exactly this.

“As a clinician and an advocate of Evidence-Based-Medicine,” wrote French consultant Alain Braillon, “I prefer to prescribe psychotherapy plus a combination of various forms of Nicotine Replacement Therapy or plus varenicline.” Varenicline is strongly linked to creating suicidal thoughts and now carries a black box warning.

“There are fundamental flaws in [his] proposed ‘logical argument,” says Rainer Kaelin in Geneva. “E-Cigarettes are not as good as conventional cigarettes for administration of Nicotine; that's the reason, why they are not useful for smoking cessation.” While we wouldn’t want to Rainer on his parade, there is ample evidence supporting the efficacy of ecigs as a quit tool and this contributed to PHE stating that vaping is at least as effective as traditional methods.

Finally: “Shaw talks about public health gains from e-cigarettes. The US school survey referenced by Shaw found rising use of e-cigarettes and a great majority of children do not consider e-cigarette use as a ‘great risk’... These are worrying findings,” wrote Douglas Mackenzie, a Lothian public health expert.

Shaw responds to this last point: “Douglas Mackenzie failed to detect my sarcasm in the article: obviously nicotine patches and gum can be used in Scottish hospitals. My point was simply that it was ridiculous to claim that smoking cessation aids have no place in Scottish hospitals. More importantly, he does not make it clear why it would be a problem that schoolchildren in the USA do not regard e-cigarettes as a great risk. All the evidence shows that they are not a great risk, so all this shows is that the children are well-informed.”

Dave Cross avatar

Dave Cross

Journalist at POTV
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Dave is a freelance writer; with articles on music, motorbikes, football, pop-science, vaping and tobacco harm reduction in Sounds, Melody Maker, UBG, AWoL, Bike, When Saturday Comes, Vape News Magazine, and syndicated across the Johnston Press group. He was published in an anthology of “Greatest Football Writing”, but still believes this was a mistake. Dave contributes sketches to comedy shows and used to co-host a radio sketch show. He’s worked with numerous vape companies to develop content for their websites.

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