Irish anti-vaping sentiment needs to be stubbed out

With Ash Wednesday on the horizon, it brings with it one of the traditional times in the year when ideas about quitting smoking come alive. Will smokers reach out for nicotine replacement devices, prescription medication, sign up for a smoking cessation programme or simply go cold turkey?

In recent years, vaping has emerged as a smoking alternative. Invented in 2003 by Chinese scientist Hon Lik, the electronic cigarette delivers nicotine through an aerosol, rather than via the combustion products of dried tobacco leaves. And while it’s an obvious aid for people quitting, until now there has been a reluctance to give the practice an enthusiastic thumbs-up.

Well, that should be about to change following the publication of a landmark paper in the New England Journal of Medicine. In a trial of e-cigarettes, almost 900 smokers seeking to quit were randomly assigned to one of two groups. One group was given nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) – mostly combinations of nicotine patches with a shorter-acting medication, such as nicotine chewing gum, inhaler or mouth spray. The other group was given a refillable e-cigarette, with one or two bottles of e-liquid, and taught how to use the device. Both groups also received weekly face-to-face support over at least the first four weeks of the study.