The Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) is aligning its recommendations with the position of Public Health England and the Royal College of Physicians in recommending vaping as a smoking cessation tool for patients.
As is the usual custom, the RCGP guidelines are based on the current positive evidence to date but cautions that there is a need to study the long-term effects of electronic cigarettes. It does say that “the benefits of ENDS* in assisting cessation should not be deferred while waiting for the publication of this research.”
The guidelines give general practitioners a format to follow with patients who are planning on quitting smoking. While it is positive that it is acknowledging the effectiveness of ecigarettes and recommending them to patients, it is a negative that it is encouraging smokers to try other quitting mechanisms first before vaping is called upon to put the nail in the coffin.
The good in the recommendations
The main bright spot in the RCGP’s new guidelines is that they are offering a consistent road map to GP’s which brings the RCGP into lockstep with other British medical organisations by including vaping in smoking cessation method recommendations. Up until the guidelines were released, general practitioners did not have guidelines. This will mostly help to improve the public perception of vaping, which the recommendations point out is currently negative, with only 46 per cent of the population believing vaping is safer than smoking, despite Public Health England’s scientific assertions that it is 95 per cent safer than smoking.
They also are directed to encourage quitters to join a local stop smoking group, which research has shown is highly effective when paired with vaping to increase the chances that a smoker will quit permanently.
Additionally, the RCGP puts the idea that ecigs are an entry to smoking for young adults and teens as an issue “of low concern.”
The bad in the recommendations
Vaping is left to be the last weapon in the GP's arsenal against smoking by recommendation #3:
“Where a patient wants to quit smoking, and has not succeeded with other options, GPs should recommend and support the use of ENDS.”
This is in spite of the fact that ecigarettes have been shown to be more effective than nicotine patches in this study by University College London. Patient preference, rather than a cascading regimen of various smoking cessation methods which could lead to setbacks, should be the driver here. However, most current smokers have tried at least one smoking cessation method on their path to quitting already, and can easily state their preference to their GP.
Overall, this is very encouraging as it shows that Britain’s medical bodies continue to offer recommendations about vaping based on science rather than hype and pressure from various lobbies.
*Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems (ENDS)