“We strive to ensure that content is evidence-based, in other words, that it is founded on the best scientific knowledge currently available,” claims the Choices section of the sprawling NHS site. Laudable but unfortunately something they fell short in providing over recent times. As recently as February they were reporting that vaping might result in increasing the vulnerability of lungs to infections.
“E-cigarettes may make lungs vulnerable to infection” was sourced from a much derided mouse study, via The Guardian. It went on to warn against the non-existent gateway effect and mention potential harm when compared to Zyban of all things – a drug that has been strongly linked with suicides.
The coverage lay at odds with advice then being given out by The National Centre for Smoking Cessation and Training (NCSCT). The NCSCT support the NHS and Local Authorities in delivering “effective evidence-based tobacco control programmes.” They were telling the NHS that data on ecigs supported claims of safety, that research demonstrated their efficacy as a quit tool and there was no substance to claims of renormalisation or the gateway effect.
The impact of the NHS’ stance meant that Quit support centres were reluctant to embrace vaping as a harm reduction tool. Aside from a few, most opted to continue giving out highly cautious advice, like Southern Health.
The NHS is now telling people looking to quit that:
- “On current evidence they carry a fraction of the risk of smoked tobacco.”
- “E-cigarette use carries only around 5% of the risk of smoking.”
- “There is no evidence of direct harm from passive exposure to e-cigarette vapour.”
- “Evidence from a number of studies indicates that e-cigarettes can help people quit smoking, with similar or better results than nicotine replacement therapies such as patches or gum.”
- “Daily use of tank models that can be refilled with liquid may give smokers a better chance of quitting.”
- “E-cigarettes can help people to quit.”
- “Among under-18s, while experimentation with e-cigarettes is fairly common, regular use is rare and almost entirely confined to those who have already smoked.”
And, vitally, they are now pulling together information in a coherent manner by adding:
- “If your adviser doesn’t already know about it, you can point them to the NCSCT briefing on e-cigarettes.”
Well done to the NHS on adopting an evidence-based harm reduction approach.