First, do no harm, actually, first get the underage use ban implemented

So things have been quiet on the harm reduction front lately. There was some talk of drug testing at festivals, which came to nothing, but at least the HSE has started a campaign to reduce the risk of using illegal drugs.

I love this.

That’s Brian from the Magic Roundabout, isn’t it? They couldn’t have chosen a better mascot for this campaign in fairness. Good work by the HSE here.

On the tobacco harm reduction side of things, not so much. The prevailing attitude seems to be harm reduction is not for smokers, those fools can quit or die, either way, we don’t care.

Yes, that may seem harsh. I mean my assessment of public health policy. Public Health Policy toward smokers is actually harsh.

There’s been some coverage of the FDA’s outrageous removal of Juul from the market and our tobacco-concerned fellows felt they should be heard about this. Seizing the opportunity to comment further on vaping they decided the best thing was to welcome the removal of Juul and call for the removal of all disposable vapes from the Irish market. Yes, they did think Juul was a disposable device. The article in the Journal had described it as such, though within 3 hours they had miscorrected this to semi-disposable. I guess someone tried to point out the error and I would guess it wasn’t the Heart Foundation.

Edit; since writing this they have changed it again to acknowledge that Juul is in fact not a disposable at all. Working on the fly is hard, right guys?. The original text is still on this news gatherer site; Newsbreezer

Nor did they mention that Juul is not available on the Irish market, they came and went ages ago, so I don’t know how this concerns the IHF. (Again I have to wonder where is ASH Ireland? Isn’t this their bailiwick?)

Disposable vapes will ‘get a whole new generation of people addicted to nicotine, expert warns.

Professor Colin O’Gara at UCD School of Medicine is head of addiction services at St John of God’s Hospital and has a Ph.D. in genetic influences on smoking cessation. I went down the rabbit hole of ‘genetic influences on smoking cessation ‘ and it looked to me like a good argument for the wide availability of safer nicotine products. Though for some reason the whole field is based on achieving nicotine abstinence to reduce smoking, it hasn’t occurred to them that as all the articles say right at the start, ” smoking is still the main cause of x y and z” or some variation thereof, that maybe removing the smoke and leaving people to access to nicotine would remove the harms, avoid the costs of pharmacopeia intervention and save them the work of figuring out which genes to nuke with chemicals to get people to the nirvana of smoke-free. They could study which genes are involved at their leisure as it’s an interesting avenue to explore but while smoking kills so many people, perhaps we should address the smoking part with greater urgency.

O’Gara’s work in addiction has shown him the benefits of vaping for long-term smokers and he insists that the issue isn’t black and white.

He at least sees the benefit of safer alternatives though doesn’t see it as an option for people who would instead smoke as he seems to genuinely believes that if they didn’t vape they would remain nicotine-free and I duno, take up accordion lessons.

However, Mark Murphy disagrees, believing that the availability of e-cigarettes will do more harm than good in terms of nicotine addiction.

Mark Murphy is advocacy officer of the Irish Heart Foundation, he was delighted with the Juul ban as Juul was the first and seemingly main cause of the teen vaping epidemic, according to him.

“These companies market e-cigarettes as this great healthy alternative that saves people’s lives because it stops them smoking, meanwhile they are the ones who are profiting from the same smokers whether they transition to vaping or not,” he said.

Not sure what his objection is here, maybe he thinks someone else should profit from the smokers rather than the ones selling the safer product, perhaps a pharmaceutical company would be more deserving of these profits. He seems unaware that the vast bulk of vaping products are from independent companies, not tobacco companies. He doesn’t mention that the ones profiting most are our government which stands to lose if vaping replaces smoking.

“Disposable e-cigarettes have this quite reasonable value when compared to tobacco which is ideal for young people who don’t have a lot of disposable income,” Murphy said.

Yeah compared to a pack of cigs, they are good value, that’s a very good thing as it makes the safer option affordable. However, it isn’t the bargain Murphy thinks it is. For the price of 3 of these, you can get a reusable vape and a bottle of juice which will last 5 times as long. You can use it for years at a cost of a bottle of juice every few days.

“It’s disingenuous for e-cigarette companies to say that these devices are only used by former smokers who are trying to quit when they make it so appealing and so attractive and easily available to young people.”

What’s disingenuous here is Murphys’ claim that appealing, attractive, and available are bad things, especially as our government has spectacularly failed to put an age restriction on vaping products. Nor does Murphy call for the current bill implementing an age restriction to be passed without delay.

He describes disposable vapes as ‘colorful and brightly packaged’ as if this was why they appealed to kids. Oddly Juul was only available in black with minimalist pastel packaging and they claimed it was the seek appearance and modern packaging that caused it to become popular with kids. I suspect if they came in OLIVE DRAB Murphy would claim they were being marketed as cool tactical gear!

The Irish Heart Foundation supports a ban on e-cigarette flavours, the introduction of plain packaging on e-cigarettes (similar to current packaging laws for cigarettes) and to increase the age necessary to buy e-cigarettes to 21.

Ahh, maybe this is why no mention of an age restriction at 18. The IHF wants the safer product restricted to 21. Perhaps they also think safety belts and airbags should be restricted to full license holders as youth should only start with the most deadly form of personal transport

As long as combustible cigarettes are available, legally or illegally, the safer alternative must be more available, more affordable, and more attractive. Anything else is a dereliction of Public Health’s duty of care .

“When it comes to most of the major cigarette brands, like Vibe and VIP, they are owned by major tobacco companies like British American Tobacco,” Murphy continued.

OK, I kinda get what he is struggling to say but for clarity, it’s Vype, not Vibe, and neither they or VIP are cigarette brands. They are not even the major brands of e-cig. Vuse and Logic are the big ones in convenience stores and in specialist shops Aspire, Smok and others are the big brands. None of the vape stores’ big sellers are owned by tobacco companies. The vast majority of e-cigs used are independent products. The subject of the journal article, bright disposable vapes which resemble highlighter pens, are not produced by any tobacco company.

We know the health toll of smoking, and we know how it destroys lives, and as long as it remains available we should, like the HSE’s current drug harm reduction campaign encourage safer use. In this case, the drug is nicotine. We have the safer option, all we need to do is encourage current smokers to switch without encouraging non-smokers to start. As long as combustible cigarettes are available, legally or illegally, the safer alternative must be more available, more affordable, and more attractive. Anything else is a dereliction of Public Health’s duty of care There is a balance to be achieved, not an impossible task but one which faces the obstacle of ideological opposition to anything that isn’t a pharmacological product.

Colum Bourk TD FG spokesman on health says;

“if a product is to be promoted for a medical purpose, such as stopping smoking, it should be authorized by the Health Products and Regulatory Authority (HPRA). There are currently no e-cigarettes on the market in Ireland authorized by the HPRA”

And he is not wrong. However e-cigarettes are not promoted for medical purposes, they are sold as safer alternatives to combustible cigarettes. If people chose to switch and thereby stop smoking that’s a bonus. One we should not discard lightly, nor should we insist that a secondary effect makes it a medical product. You have to stretch the definition of medical to make that fit. All this shows is Colum Bourk hasn’t a clue what he’s talking about and needs to be better informed.

The Journal did cover the main problem with disposable vapes, waste. This is the main issue that needs dealing with. These products should be recycled properly, and some system to encourage that is needed. This might be something distributors could deal with. I don’t see vendors being able to sort it as this category of products is sold in too many non-specialist shops. Ideally, a refundable deposit would be the best solution.

Oh and an age restriction, the same as combustible cigs. That’s long overdue.

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