By its own admission, the Health Information and Quality Authority said that if Irish vaping reached the levels found in England (45%) then it estimates a drop in the order of 40% in prescriptions for quit products. It leads to a glaringly obvious conclusion, as the government seeks to control its annual €40 million spend on helping people away from smoking.
Unfortunately, the obvious conclusion is not the one the body reached. Rather than supporting a working solution, preferred by smokers, that carries no cost to the taxpayer, the report recommended the “cost-effective” answer of continuing to prescribe Varenicline and use traditional pharmaceutical nicotine replacement therapies.
The voiceover in a feature on RTE stated: “Almost a third of smokers turn to these e-cigarettes to quit smoking. Early research shows that people are twice as likely to successfully quit smoking using an e-cigarette opposed to using no aid at all. According to HIQA’s draft report, if more people started using e-cigarettes the state would save more than 2 million euro but it warns the long-term effects haven’t been established yet.”
Dr Máirín Ryan is quoted as saying: “This [health technology assessment] found a high level of uncertainty surrounding both the clinical and cost-effectiveness of e-cigarettes. While the long-term effects of using e-cigarettes have not yet been established, data from Healthy Ireland reveals that 29 per cent of smokers currently use e-cigarettes as an aid to quitting smoking.”
“[The Health Information and Quality Authority’s] analysis shows that increased uptake of e-cigarettes as an aid to quitting would increase the number of people who successfully quit compared with the existing situation in Ireland,” Ryan continued, “and would be cost-effective provided that the currently available evidence on their effectiveness is confirmed by further studies.”
ASH Ireland is reported as telling smokers not to use electronic cigarettes. The chairman, Dr Pat Doorley, says: “Some people say they do help them but we don't think the evidence is strong enough for us to support them and there are concerns about their long-term safety. Only a limited body of work has been carried out in the area of e-cigarettes and more research would have to be carried out here before we could endorse their use.”
Doorley featured in a debate on vaping on RTE Radio 1, with Dr Garret McGovern.