Ever since the UK smoking ban in 2007 smoking has, of course, been strictly prohibited inside hospitals, with small dedicated smoking areas being set up outside buildings. More recently, the government has been attempting to initiate policies to move towards a smoke-free environment for the entirety of NHS premises. However, this is proving challenging.
Colchester and Ipswich create dedicated vaping areas
One of the initiatives attempting to solve this challenge is the government endorsement of the use of e-cigarettes and vaping, as it provides a healthier alternative to tobacco, without the harmful effects on the individual or people close to the smoker. Last year, a government report suggested that ‘[a]llowing vaping in all or part of the hospital grounds can support compliance with the smokefree policy’.
Both Colchester and Ipswich hospitals have acted in accordance with this governmental guidance. On National No Smoking Day 2017, they replaced their smoking shelters with specific outdoor vaping areas. Just over a year has passed since this day, and both of these hospitals have seen a significant decrease in smoking on hospital grounds.
In addition, staff have also noticed an increase in patients actively seeking help to switch from tobacco to electronic cigarettes, and staff have been more active in offering referrals and support to those smoking on hospital grounds. The success of the scheme means more hospitals and other NHS organisations are likely to follow in these footsteps, promoting vaping over tobacco smoking.
Will more be done for vapers?
Public Health England recently reviewed e-cigarettes, endorsing their use over tobacco cigarettes, and suggested a number of policies which should be encouraged. These include selling e-cigarettes in hospital shops and pharmacies alongside traditional nicotine replacement solutions, as well as increasing the behavioural support of healthcare professionals and other services designated to assist in stopping smoking through the use of vaping.
Considering the success of the schemes in Colchester and Ipswich, and the endorsement from Public Health England, it is likely that more schemes will be implemented that promote vaping.
Working with vape shops
The same study also suggests that the NHS should consider working closely with vape shops to help smokers quit more easily and successfully. Vape shops, groups and forums provide the natural environment and behavioural support to assist people attempting to stop tobacco smoking for good. Having a substitute for cigarettes is easier than going ‘cold turkey’, and speaking to experts who can give tailored advice about the most appropriate products while also directly understanding the quitter’s experience produces far better results than doing it alone, according to the study.
While policies have not yet been developed in line with this, governmental and health institutions are becoming more clear about the benefits of vaping and are attempting to create both political and cultural change around this.