Local vaping groups urged the Department of Health to educate smokers about alternative products such as electronic cigarettes to help them quit smoking.
The appeal was made by The Vapers Philippines and the Philippine E-Cigarette Industry Association, as Public Health England published its new evidence update on vaping last week.
Peter Paul Dator, president of The Vapers Philippines, said the DoH smoking cessation program currently provides face-to-face counseling in clinics and telephone support through its Quitline.
Some local healthcare professionals also recommend nicotine replacement therapies such as nicotine gums and patches to patients, he said.
“We call on the DOH and local healthcare professionals to look at the latest evidence update on vaping from England, a country which is experiencing tremendous success in reducing adult smoking rates,” Dator said.
Dator lauded public health officials in the country for doing a good job in raising public awareness on the health risks associated with smoking. “Unfortunately, their efforts stop there. To really make an impact in reducing the harms caused by smoking, the public should also be educated about alternative products that can help smokers quit.”
Quitting is a major challenge for many smokers. Pecia president Joey Dulay warned that if the 16 million Filipinos who currently smoke do not quit, they will at some point get sick and die prematurely.
“They should be encouraged to switch to less harmful products such as e-cigarettes. It would be a monumental tragedy if the DOH continues to vilify e-cigarettes without looking at new evidence,” he said.
Dulay called on the DOH to seriously consider the latest evidence update on vaping from Public Health England, noting that the series of expert independent evidence reviews published by an operationally autonomous executive agency of the UK Department of Health has in large part shaped the British government’s policy on the role of e-cigarettes in tobacco control.
Public Health England published its evidence review in August 2015 which concluded that e-cigarettes, while not completely risk-free, are around 95 percent less harmful than smoking and that e-cigarettes may be contributing to falling smoking rates among adults and young people in the UK. “Public Health England’s conclusion that e-cigarettes are overwhelmingly less harmful than cigarettes is consistent with the findings of other respected medical and scientific organizations including the Royal College of Physicians, Cancer Research UK and the US National Academy of Sciences,” Dulay said.
According to the updated Public Health England evidence review, combining electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes or vapes) with stop smoking service support should be a recommended option available to all smokers.
It cited evidence showing that e-cigarette use remains largely confined to those who already smoke or ex-smokers, who have now quit using an e-cigarette while quitting smoking remains the key motivation among adult vapers.
The surge in young people using e-cigarettes regularly is not happening in the UK. While experimentation is increasing, vaping among young people remains low at 1.7 percent and mainly confines to those who already smoke.
Smokers in the UK should be encouraged to switch to e-cigarettes, according to the latest report. “Regular e-cigarette use among adults in the UK is now plateauing and a third of smokers have yet to try an e-cigarette. There is an opportunity here to further reduce the harms caused by tobacco by encouraging more smokers to try vaping and for ‘dual-users’ [those who smoke and vape at the same time] to switch completely,” it said.
The latest Public Health England evidence review asked health professionals to provide behavioral support to smokers who want to use e-cigarettes to help them quit smoking. Health professionals supporting smokers to quit should receive education and training on using e-cigarettes in quit attempts.
Public Health England noted that in England’s local stop smoking services, people who use an e-cigarette to quit smoking have the highest success rates.
“Evidence suggests that vaping helps people stop smoking rather than leading them to start in the first place,” it said.
The agency revealed that the proportion of e-cigarettes users in the UK who are ex-smokers has increased over recent years and adult smoking rates continue to decline. It also cited a major new study which showed that e-cigarettes, when combined with face-to-face stop smoking service support, are nearly twice as effective as traditional NRTs in helping smokers quit.