Even during the start of last year many areas of the NHS were failing to embrace the electronic cigarette revolution as a harm reduction strategy. Positive noises coming out of the public health service began snowballing after February, and were widely welcomed by advocates. A sixteen page briefing preceded the eventual announcement by Public Health England that vaping is at least 95% safer than smoking. Finally, they declared: “if your adviser doesn’t already know about it, you can point them to the NCSCT briefing on e-cigarettes.”
But busy professionals can easily miss this advice unless they are avid readers of large documents in their spare time, comments such as the following remain commonplace: “I had a patient ask me if "vaping" e-cigarettes would be better than smoking. I really didn't have an answer, and am wondering what you all know about e-cigs. Are they a "better" alternative? Or one that can help patients quit?”
But even as far back as 2014, it was noted that: “Nurses are well placed to make every contact count and offer very brief advice to smokers every time. Nurses should feel confident that referring a patient to a Stop Smoking Service is the best way to help them stop smoking and is four times more effective than using willpower alone. Even smokers considering e-cigarettes as a quitting aid should speak to their Stop Smoking Service to see what support they can offer.”
So, it made sense for practising nurses to receive sound advice on a repeated basis in order to maximise the chance of the message hitting home with a greater number of professionals. Who better to take on this task? Step forward Louise Ross.
Writing for Guidelines in Practice last year, Louise covers all of the basics. Presenting ecigs as an “opportunity”, she stated: “Be open to electronic cigarette use in people keen to try them; especially in those who have tried, but not succeeded, in stopping smoking with the use of licensed stop smoking medicines.”
It’s a message she expands upon in her latest Nursing in Practice article, published this week. “I’d be really surprised if any nurse hadn’t been told by one of their smoking patients in the last year that they were thinking about using an e-cigarette to stop smoking...this new interest in e-cigarettes may have taken some healthcare professionals by surprise, and while smokers are looking for advice, so will the nurses and doctors to whom they turn to for information.”
The article goes on to expand upon all of the information we are familiar with but may have suffered at the hands of disinformation being given out by the likes of Martin McKee. “As front-line healthcare professionals, nurses are exquisitely positioned to make a difference to health outcomes. With vaping they have an opportunity here to change patients’ lifelong smoking.”