Doctors warm to e-cigs

The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) said prescribing options for nicotine-replacement therapies should be widened, cautiously recommending e-cigarettes as a potential second-line quit-smoking aid, according to the “Supporting Smoking Cessation” guide.

Nicholas Zwar, chairman of the advisory group behind the guide, said the recommendation that e-cigarettes could help people quit smoking came with many caveats. “The [therapies] that have been tested and been through therapeutic approval would be the first choice, but if you have someone who has not succeeded in quitting using those methods and they are interested in nicotine vaping, there is some evidence of benefit, and they could be considered,” he said.

Zwar said using e-cigarettes is probably safer than smoking since e-cigarettes do not have the large number of toxic combustibles and carcinogens found in cigarettes. He also said the long-term health effects of vaping were not clear, but when considered in relation to helping people stop smoking it “can be considered” as a potential aid.

Nicotine-replacement therapies are the first line of aid for those looking to quit smoking in Australia. However, currently, patients can only be prescribed one nicotine-replacement therapy at a time for a maximum of 12 weeks a year. “Rather than have patients [attempt to quit smoking] once a year, it would be much better if we were able to prescribe and patients receive subsidized treatment more than once a year,” said Harry Nespolon, RACGP president.