She has penned her farewell on Clive Bates’ blog.
Louise came to prominence as Dame Sally Davies, the government’s chief medical officer, named electronic cigarettes as one of the three biggest health challenges facing Britain.
The new POTV news section first noted Louise’s efforts in July 2015, although we had been very supportive as forum members when she arranged her first vape event the previous year. We wrote: “One centre that has bucked the trend is Leicester, run by Louise Ross. Leicester’s Stop Smoking Service was the first stop smoking service in the UK to become, in her words, e-cig friendly. ‘I realised we could embrace this new technology, and welcome people into our Stop Smoking Service who may never have come if we hadn’t been more open-minded’.”
By October, Louise was writing From smoking to vaping to quitting: a nurses’ guide. 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.”
At the start of the next year, She returned to addressing nurses directly through a Nursing In Practice article. She noted the growing wave of negative coverage and lies, and warned nursing staff: “the public are being misled by scare stories into thinking that vaping is more hazardous than smoking.”
Ringing the bell of truth, she told them how to engage vapers: “As an ice-breaker, I have asked complete strangers what flavour liquid they're using. I've never been snubbed by a vaper; most are really keen to chat with someone who's interested, and they often go on to say why they started vaping, and how it made stopping smoking so much easier. As you gather stories of lived experience, you will be in a much stronger position to give advice to your patients needing to make the switch from smoker to non-smoker.”
As the year rolled by, she succeeded in convincing the local NHS Trust to shift its stance. NHS Trusts were to ban vaping from all hospital grounds until Louise convinced bosses at the Leicestershire Partnership NHS Trust to carry out a pilot study on the Beaumont Ward at the Bradgate mental health unit using e-cigarettes. A pilot study that has had massive ramifications for the NHS across the nation.
“People with poor mental health smoke significantly more and are more dependent on nicotine than the population as a whole, with levels about three times those seen in the general population,” said Louise. “Stopping smoking results in improved mental health with an impact on anxiety and depressive symptoms which is at least as large as anti-depressants. When people with poor mental health stop smoking, they are often able to reduce the amount on medication they take, which relieves many of the side-effects they experience.”
Also in 2016, Louise’s Leicester quit service broke the mould by including vaping in its stop smoking campaign. She even got the local paper on board to help promote a switch to vaping – and roped in a number of local Leicester sporting heroes.
In response to calls for Louise to be made a Dame, Norbert Zillatron wrote: “I don't know the necessary procedures, but if anybody deserves the honour then it's @grannylouisa!”
Professor Linda Bauld called her farewell on Clive Bates’ blog “brilliant”, and Colin Mendelsohn wished her the very best after “14 years of managing a UK stop smoking service” with “wise advice for all of us.”
INNCO, the global coalition of national vaping and snus consumer organisations, wrote: “Goodbye & Welcome Home Louise! @grannylouisa retires - 14yrs managing UK's Leicester SS Service. A tireless global THR advocate with unrivalled knowledge, integrity and humility. UK's positive vaping stance is due in no small part to her efforts - LEGEND!”
It’s not resorting to hyperbole to say that Louise has saved lives. Her industry, strength of will and powers of persuasion has opened up a world of opportunity to smokers. The NHS had rejected vaping, but over four years she turned the tanker on a sixpence.
We will miss your contributions, Louise, but you leave tobacco harm reduction in the UK in much better shape than it used to be, be it vaping on hospital grounds or the inclusion of ecigs in Stoptober – Martin Dockrell’s article today would never have happened without you. Have a wonderful retirement.
You can read her words here: https://www.clivebates.com/looking-back-but-forwards-too-guest-posting-by-louise-ross/