This week a respected UK medicines and healthcare body published guidance that urges quit services to be clear about the advantages of vaping. NICE Guidance Recommends e-cigarettes.
The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) is a world renowned body that provides evidence-based guidance and advice for health, public health and social care providers. On Tuesday 30th November they released their latest guideline on preventing uptake of smoking, and encouraging smokers to quit. The guidance includes vaping as a quit tool for the first time. It is likely that their guidance will be able to go further as evidence develops in the future. For now it is a huge step in the right direction.
Clear advice on quitting with a vape
The new guideline was developed jointly by NICE and government agency Public Health England (PHE). It urges health professionals to ensure that they understand the latest evidence about vaping, so that they can clearly advise that vaping is very likely to be much less harmful than smoking. They also provide evidence that vaping is effective in helping people to quit.
Details within the guide ask health services to ensure that quitters are able to get vaping products, and to explain how they are best used. They ask them to make sure service users know how to get enough nicotine so as not to crave a cigarette. They also ask them to make sure quitters keep vaping for long enough that they are not tempted to relapse back to smoking.
Vaping for Harm Reduction
Another change from formerly accepted practice in the new guideline is the notion of “harm reduction”. This is an acceptance that some smokers may never be able to give up nicotine for good. Any form of nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) that allows these smokers to quit or reduce smoking may be needed for the long-term. It might even be needed for life. The guidance does not include vaping for this purpose. This is most likely because much longer-term evidence is available for nicotine gum, patches and similar NRT products.
Two areas are seen to need particular support in cutting smoking rates. These are in pregnancy, and for people with mental health issues. Disappointingly the new NICE guideline does not make any specific recommendations for vaping in either of these areas. This is likely to be because the evidence base is still slowly building up. It seems a particular shame when in some regions there is more stigma attached to vaping than to smoking when pregnant. Smoking rates are very high for people with mental health issues. This is a major reason for their much shorter life expectancy. It feels very unjust when vaping could help them a lot.
Earlier this year Health Secretary Sajid Javid talked about “opening the door” to licensing e-cigarettes as medicines. The thought was positively embraced here at Totally Wicked. However the reality is that it would be a very expensive process. It would also be a long one. This means it may not be viable even in the medium or long term. The new NICE guideline leads to an obvious question. Is a medicinally licensed vape product even necessary anymore?
Totally Wicked Technical Director Liam Humberstone commented. “Seeing our products alongside licensed NRT products in the latest NICE guideline is an incredible milestone. I sincerely hope that it leads to an avalanche of quit services seeking our support. They will join the many that we are already so happy to support with products, advice and training around vaping to quit.”