Only one political party has mentioned e-cigs in their manifesto, and it just happens to be the same party that is pushing for mental health to be made a priority.
Is there a correlation?
Here at TECC we are not pushing for this party – we are completely neutral in this election – but it is interesting and heart warming to see that one e-cig advocate is putting mental health and e-cigarettes together, by helping to create a pilot scheme where those in mental health units are allowed to vape in place of smoking.
People with mental health problems tend to smoke, and they tend smoke a lot. They smoke as it helps them deal with the stress of their situation, and when things get bad, smoking calms them. This is well know within the health care systems, and new non smoking regulations are causing people that are already emotionally stressed to become further stressed and unbalanced. This is grossly unfair when all they want to do is partake in a perfectly legal habit.
Recent legislation has banned smoking within mental health units, and in some cases, patients are not allowed to smoke on hospital grounds either. With the current staffing crisis in the NHS there is not always a person able to be with the patient off grounds (should they be allowed to go there).
Understandably this is causing more stress to both patients and staff. Staff are now having to deal with more agitated patients.
One could even argue that this goes against human rights, but we will leave that to the lawyers. As one commentator on Clive Bates’ blog beautifully summed it up, “ To take away, by force, a perfectly legal pastime from any patient is inhumane and stressful, but for a patient with mental health issues, a disaster”.
Louise Ross the Smoking Cessation Service Manager for Leicester has written for Clive Bates about how she is helping to set up this pioneering new scheme for one mental health unit.
Louise has managed to garner the support of charge nurses, psychiatrists, the hospital fire service guys and the Matron. Some were more open than others, but ultimately she has managed to convince everyone that this is worth a try.
Writing about one of the psychiatrists involved she states: “He was able to use his own experiences of patients in crisis, seeing that the availability of a vaporizer could have a huge benefit for someone who needed nicotine during a difficult time, helping the person be able to stay calm and in control”
And isn’t this what Public Health should be about? About caring for those that need it most?
This is a very new venture, Louise herself is unsure if this is a policy or a scheme, but as she concludes, “ This is to give people with poor mental health the same opportunities as those in the general population – a chance to stop using smoked tobacco (which harms health and can take up almost all the disposable income of people with mental health problems). We know there are other Trusts wanting to know how it goes, and I’m proud that we can show the way.”
We here at TECC wish Louise all the best for this new venture, and hope that the scheme will be successful, that patients will benefit – and that this caring approach to tobacco harm reduction and patient care will be rolled out further.
There are 2.1 million vapers in the UK, 10 million smokers and
114’000 deaths each year that are attributed to tobacco related illness.
Why put vaper stats in with smoking stats like that?
Because that’s how the taxman sees you.
As a statistic.
The key benefit of vaping comes from how many people switch from smoking to vaping. E-cigs are of magnitude less harmful than burning tobacco, and we all know someone that has benefited from making the switch.
But the taxman cometh, and he’s coming from the EU and the UK. Seems they had a wee tea party back in February of this year and all joined together in a bid to find new taxes and streams of revenue.
E-cigs were the product of choice. In Italy he’s already struck – they now have a €0.37 per ml tax applied to their e-liquids, increasing a 10ml bottle of e-liquid by €3.70, and in Portugal the taxman takes even more – with a €0.60 per ml tax.
Part of their tea party was to see if they can ‘harmonise’ the tax, i.e. so we all pay the same. €0.60 is about 43p. If we have to tax at the same rate as Portugal, up goes your e-liquid by a cool £4.30 per 10 ml bottle.
But why tax a product that is so much less harmful?
Back to the 10 million smokers…
The UK squeezed out of those 10 million and the tobacco industry a cool £12.3 billion of tobacco tax in 2013.
I know; the mind boggles.
Now, at the moment, even though the smoking rates are gradually falling, the tax revenue is not. (It has managed to increase year in year out). But there will come a time when it will start to fall, and so the government is looking at ways to get more. Governments are insatiable beasts. They believe it is fair game to tax e-cigarettes as they contain nicotine.
NRT contains nicotine, but because it has a medicinal licence, it’s only subject to 5% tax.
That’s not enough.
Plus, now that e-cigs have joined the party, sales in NRT are tanking.
So which part of the e-cig will they tax? All of it? Just the e-liquid?
The reason we are told that cigarettes are taxed is because they are really bad for us. Is it then fair to tax a product that isn’t? Smokers allegedly place a huge burden on the NHS, yet when you examine the figures – they pay for it – and more!
The introduction of the e-liquid tax in Italy and Portugal has had the effect of people staying smokers.
And there is a cynical part of me that believes this is actually point.
From where we are sitting, there are no good reasons for taxing e-cigarettes other than with the consumer tax they have now. They are not a tobacco product and if all this talk about genuinely wanting people to stop smoking is true – why tax the hell out of a product that is helping people to do precisely that?
Cotinine, the nicotine metabolite that is used by the insurance and scientific communities to measure the level of nicotine in the blood, now, according to one new study also supports learning and memory.
“The new findings indicate cotinine makes brain receptors more sensitive to lower levels of the messenger acetylcholine, which are typical in Alzheimer’s, and may boost effectiveness, at least for a time, of existing therapies for Alzheimer’s and possibly other memory and psychiatric disorders”.
This is interesting news for several reasons. One because it could help sufferers of Alzheimer’s and relieve some of their symptoms, and two, because it adds yet another angle to the ‘does smoking prevent/cause Alzheimer’s’ debate. This is a hotly contested issue clouded by ‘who did the research and can we trust them’, because yes, much of the research was undertaken by the tobacco industry. Many people believe smoking prevents Alzheimer’s, yet this may not be strictly true. That the Pharmaceutical Industry is any better in their reporting bias is a mute point, but the jury does still seem to be out on this issue.
Alzheimer’s occurs when the axon part of the brain/nerve cell (remember you school biology – it is the tail of the nerve cell) pulls back, so it can no longer connect and communicate with other cells, and then it dies. This pulling back is due to low levels of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine (which helps to pass the messages from nerve cell to nerve cell).
Basically the nerve cell thinks it is all alone as it is not receiving any messages, so it curls up its tail and dies.
According to this new study, cotinine makes the body more receptive, and acts like a booster – so the body can still function, even with the low levels of acetylcholine.
Meaning the nerve cell does receive messages even though not as many as before.
But that is not all they found. They also found that the cotinine helped with psychotic episodes of those with Alzheimer’s. The psychotic episodes occur for Alzheimer’s patients as they experience hallucinations due to the cell deaths, they become delusional and this can manifest aggressive behavior. With the brain cells now talking to each other in a more efficient manner – the body functions better and the hallucinations and aggression is reduced.
More research is needed in this area, but nicotine is certainly not the villainous toxic chemical it is painted to be.
Unless you have been hiding under the proverbial rock or studiously avoiding the news and press recently, you won’t have missed the relentless propaganda war against e-cigarettes.
Is this because of the negative propaganda, or is this for other reasons?
Two prominent bloggers in the vaping blogosphere have written about this recently – one from each side of the ‘pond’, so we truly have a UK/USA perspective on this.
From the USA Dr Michael Siegel believes the anti smoking groups are doing their utmost to do more harm than good and he has publicly stated ‘ the insanity has to end’.
Public Health, has, in his opinion caused the decline because they are simply not embracing the concept of harm reduction. PH are clinging to an old paradigm that seriously needs to be let go of, i.e. 1) stop blaming Big Tobacco for e-cigs, because they didn’t enter the market until 2012, 2) there is now adequate research to show the benefits of vaping, so stop saying otherwise, 3) they are not a gateway to tobacco, and 4) no they are not 100% safe, but they are safer than tobacco, and they are of a magnitude less harmful.
However, the result of the cherry picking of junk science and the misinformation spread in the press now has many more people believing that vaping is just as harmful as smoking.
This is a very sad state of affairs.
Clive Bates from the UK takes a more measured look and wonders if there is more to it than just negative propaganda. He acknowledges that the propaganda is an issue and quotes Professor West, who said in an interview in the Financial Times, “ What they (press/PH) don’t say is the concentrations are negligible or the same as nicotine replacement therapy. In some cases they arise from using the e-cigarette in a way no one would use it.”
I believe this is in reference to the Formaldehyde scare stories.
Then Clive questions – could it be the e-cigarettes themselves?
Are they not good enough? Take the ciggi-like – the e-cig of choice for many a first time vaper – do they deliver the right amount of nicotine for someone switching? – Is the learning curve too steep for many? Are they too bulky? What about the initial costs? Are they just too damn fiddly?
And then what about the human factor? If you believed you were no better off vaping, why bother to switch? Why bother to change a habit?
I know I wouldn’t.
One person commenting on Clive’s post came up with the fact that perhaps people simply like smoking.
I know we are not supposed to admit to that, as every smoker is supposed to want to give up – but that is simply not true.
Plus e-cigs are not for everyone; we know that.
So perhaps it is a mixture of all of the above?
But on a more positive note, we also have to factor in those folk that have stopped both smoking and vaping. Because this is what harm reduction is all about. Move to a product that is less harmful, and if you want, use that product as a stepping-stone, or keep using it, because you are doing less harm.
Perhaps there can be a positive angle put on this after all.
People new to vaping often find that they experience a dry mouth, something that never occurred when they smoked.
So why does this happen?
Because of the Propylene Glycol, more commonly know and referred to as PG. The PG is the part of the e-liquid that is the diluent and causes the smoke like vapour.
PG is one of the core ingredients in e-liquid, it is a hygroscopic substance and this means it absorbs water molecules and prevents them – in the case of vaping – from being absorbed in your mouth. The result is a dry mouth and you become a little dehydrated.
As you inhale the vapour and then exhale, some of the moisture in your mouth is swept up by the PG and exhaled. Some of you may be experiencing a little more than just a dry mouth – you may notice that your skin is becoming a little dryer, you may even experience the odd headache.
There is plenty of advice on the internet on how to deal with this issue, but by far the best and simplest advice I have read is from Spinfeul magazine, because not only does it tell you the why of why you have a dry mouth, it also gives you a little vaping ‘hack’ to combat the dehydration.
Most adults drink tea, coffee, wine, beer, soda etc., but what they don’t realise is that many of these drinks also contain hygroscopic substances – like sugar, and both tea and coffee are both diuretics, which means they make you pee out more fluid. So if you are thinking I’ll just increase the number of brews I have when I vape, you won’t actually be making the situation any better, you could in fact be making it worse!
What you need to do is drink more water, and I appreciate that it’s something many of us find rather dull and boring. Plus, what makes it even harder is the ‘drink 8-10 glasses a day!’ bandwagon that guilt trips you into it.
This is where the vaping hack comes in. In the USA they say drink 8 cups a day, and 1 cup amounts to about 8oz of water.
That’s not a lot to be honest.
So… when you have your usual drink of tea, coffee, whatever, have a small glass of water either before it – or alongside it. If you can get into this habit – you will drink more water, you will no longer have a dry mouth, your hydration levels will increase, your headaches associated to the dehydration will vanish, and you’ll be a happier vaper!