Three major mental health organizations endorse vaping

While federal public health agencies are often slow to admit that vaping is significantly less harmful than smoking, multiple privatized medical groups are now finding the courage to publicly endorse vaping as a legitimate form of tobacco harm reduction.  Last year, the vaping community was granted the surprise endorsement of the Mental Health & Smoking Partnership (MHSP) in the UK.  MHSP officials published its official endorsement on the government-funded website SmokeFreeAction.org.

“When appropriately tailored these interventions are also effective for people with mental health conditions. Nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) is effective, but is likely to be required in high doses, for longer durations and with more intensive behavioural support than in the general population of smokers. Provision of the nicotine that smokers are addicted to without the harmful components of tobacco smoke can prevent most of the harm from smoking.”

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But MHSP is not alone in its affinity of vaping as a smoking cessation and tobacco harm reduction tool.  This year, a professional group dedicated specifically to nurses specializing in the field of drug and alcohol addiction and recovery are also making their collective validation of vaping known.   In a press release entitled Electronic Cigarettes for Tobacco Harm Reduction, the Drug and Alcohol Nurses of Australia Incorporated (DANA) is now openly recommending electronic cigarettes as a healthier, safer substitute for smoking to patients and addicts in their care.

Substitution therapy is a long-standing, proven technique used in overcoming one’s dependence on drugs or alcohol.  Travel to any Alcoholics Anonymous meeting, and afterwards its attendees will likely be gathered together outside smoking cigarettes and engaging in supportive conversation.  Cigarettes often become their substitutive “drug of choice.” 

MHSP, DANA, and RANZCP mental health groups endorse vaping

So, if smoking is so bad for one’s health, and the smoker is also addicted to sensory-impairing drugs or alcohol, then which should they give up first?  This is the age-old argument that has been plaguing mental health professionals for decades.

Until vaping hit the scene, addiction counselors tended to focus on the drug and alcohol dependence first because of its more immediately negative consequences to multiple aspects of one’s life.    However, representatives of DANA seeming no longer believe that the two forms of addiction must be treated separately, thanks to recent research into the positive health benefits of vaping technology and electronic cigarettes.

“People with drug and alcohol dependence have high smoking rates and greater difficulty quitting than other smokers. They are more likely to die from a tobacco-related disease than from their primary drug problem. Electronic cigarettes (E-cigarettes) are battery-operated devices that heat a liquid solution, which may or may not contain nicotine into a vapour for inhalation, simulating the behavioural and sensory aspects of smoking, and they are currently seen as a legitimate form of tobacco harm reduction. Nurses have an important role in asking people about their smoking, assessing the risk of tobacco use, advising about the risks, assisting smokers to stop or reduce their tobacco consumption, and arranging further support as appropriate.”

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DANA and MHSP are not the only major mental health organizations endorsing vaping as a tobacco harm reduction tool and smoking cessation opportunity.  The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists (RANZCP) has also issued a similar endorsement of vaping.

“The RANZCP believes that harm minimisation is an essential component of any policy framework that aims to improve health outcomes for people who smoke. E-cigarettes and vaporisers provide a safer way to deliver nicotine to those who are unable to stop smoking, thereby minimising the harms associated with smoking tobacco and reducing some of the health disparities experienced by people with mental illness. The RANZCP is concerned that policies with an unduly narrow focus on smoking cessation risk exacerbating the health disparities, and perpetuating the discrimination, which people living with mental illness currently experience.”

Even though numerous mental health agencies around the world are now endorsing vaping as a healthier alternative to smoking, especially for addicts in recovery, the individual drug and alcohol recovery centers often have no-smoking policies dictated by their respective federal governments. Even though vaping is tobacco-free and its second-hand vapor has been proven to be about 95 percent less harmful to innocent bystanders than the smoke from combustible cigarettes, patients residing in addiction recovery centers are still discouraged or even prevented by law from vaping indoors.  Perhaps the endorsement of vaping by these three mental health organizations will eventually lead to positive change on the legislative front, as well.  

Related Article:  National Institute of Health awards $1.4 million grant to review U.S. vaping laws

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