If we could be bothered to go out and buy a trophy so that we could award a trophy to public health stupidity, this week we would present it to Ireland’s Health and Information and Quality Authority (HIQA). Despite having produced a report to demonstrate the benefits of vaping, HIQA are demanding the Irish Minister of Health does not embrace vaping.
Ireland spends over €240-million each year on smoking-related diseases, and €40-million on smoking quit products, programs and prevention campaigns. Anybody with half a brain might correctly believe that a product that offered both cost savings to the government and health benefits to the consumer would be a great thing. HIQA don’t think so, despite previous findings and statements.
The recent “Healthy Ireland” report revealed that the country struggles with a higher rate of smoking than the UK, 23% of the population are current smokers but only 6% of smokers have transitioned to vaping. Rather than looking at findings across the water and encouraging more smokers to adopt a harm reduction approach, HIQA are suggesting that Irish smokers should not rely on electronic cigarettes to quit.
Worse, HIQA has asked the Minister for Health to invest more money in traditional (failing) nicotine replacement therapies for the 820,000 Irish smokers while suggesting giving a wide berth to a technology that actually works. To make matters more ridiculous, HIQA previously admitted that promoting vaping to achieve the levels found in England would lead a drop of around 40% in NRT prescriptions – and therefore costs.
Our own Stealthvape Survey, conducted in September last year, revealed the kind of responses that shames those responsible for public health in Ireland. Overwhelmingly, those of you who were kind enough to take part informed us that you were long-term smokers, you’d struggled with previous methods and techniques – but it was through vaping that you found success and escaped the grip of tobacco cigarettes.
The message of efficacy comes through loud and clear to those reading the Cochrane Review or the report produced by the Royal College of Physicians. Meanwhile, as they wait to reproduce tests and studies, Ireland continues to admit 28,000 people to hospital each year for smoking-related diseases while one in five deaths are due to smoking tobacco.
Speaking for HIQA, Doctor Máirín Ryan said: “There is not enough evidence to reliably demonstrate the effectiveness of electronic cigarettes in helping smokers quit.” She then went on to speak about the benefits of Big Pharma’s Varenicline and nicotine patches. Next she began to talk about the dangers posed by vaping “renormalising” smoking and “it could lead to an increased uptake among people who have never smoked, or later migration to tobacco cigarettes.”
Is it possible Ryan has existed in a bubble for the last three years as the boom in vape studies has taken place? Is it possible she has missed out on all the evidence disproving the existence of a gateway effect or renormalisation? At the very least, could she provide a jot of evidence to support her claim given that vaping has been a major activity for ten years.
Even the Irish Cancer Society said: “There is no long-term evidence as to the safety of these products, and there is emerging, but as of yet limited, evidence that for adolescents e-cigarettes may act as a ‘gateway’ to tobacco usage, especially among those in their late teens who otherwise, according to research, did not intend to smoke tobacco.”
Given the positive support for vaping and harm reduction on this side of the Irish Sea, it’s a total nonsense that HIQA and the Irish government has taken none of it on board. For the sake of Irish smokers and vapers, we hope they pull their finger out soon.
If you missed it, the Stealthvape Survey results are summarised on this page.