Thursday, February 22, 2024

Australian Researchers Urge Doctors to Ask Patients About Their Vaping Behavior


Following the US events in relation to the infamous EVALI outbreak, Dr Eli Dabscheck and his team, are urging Australian doctors to start asking their patients whether they vape, and remind them of the potential risks of vaping in the event that they do. “Australian clinicians should maintain vigilance and ask every patient about e-cigarette use,” wrote Dr Dabscheck and colleagues Maitri Munsif and Mark Hew.

“A reasonable and precautionary strategy is to advise patients that little is known about the long term effects of e-cigarettes, and also to inform users that severe lung disease and death have occurred mainly with unregulated solutions,” they added.

The researchers insist that while vaping is considered an effective way to quit smoking by many, the recent EVALI crises new raises questions. Additionally, says Dr Dabscheck, more research is required to determine what the dangers in vaping are.

E-cigarettes should be regulated

The researchers did rightly point out that EVALI was mainly linked to acquiring THC “via informal channels and were probably made outside of regulated facilities”.

The Alfred Health researchers did rightly point out that EVALI was mainly linked to acquiring THC “via informal channels and were probably made outside of regulated facilities”. Only 13% of EVALI patients reported exclusively using nicotine containing products in their vape (though some samples reportedly showed traces of THC in them anyway), they said, adding that self reporting is never be fully reliable.

“There may be unreliable self-reporting and it is possible that the nicotine e-cigarettes may have been contaminated by black-market THC additives,” wrote the authors. “There is mounting evidence that a specific additive to vaping solutions – vitamin E acetate – played a major role in the 2019 EVALI outbreak.”

Nicotine imports to be banned

The researchers pointed out that setting in place sensible e-cig regulations would be the next logical step. Sadly however, last June, the Federal Health Minister of Australia Greg Hunt said that the Department of Health was working with the country’s Border Force towards a ban on the importation of vape liquid containing nicotine. The measure was to go into effect on July 1st, and anyone caught violating this regulation was to be fined $220,000.

This ban would have meant that while vapers would have technically still been able to obtain nicotine e-liquids via a doctor’s prescription, in reality not many would have managed, as only a handful of Australian doctors are willing to write nicotine prescriptions under current laws.

Moreover, given the complex and time-consuming requirements of the new plan, even fewer doctors would have been inclined to write prescriptions following these changes, and the findings of the above study confirm this even more.

Import ban delayed

As soon as this measure was announced, there was an outrage and a number of organizations and entities who have harm reduction and public health, as well as 28 Coalition MPs spoke up against the ban. Australian Senator Matthew Canavan and MP George Christensen started a petition to overturn the import ban and to instead have it legalized and regulated.

Thankfully, in response to these actions Health Minister Greg Hunt has decided to delay the ban by six months. Australian Tobacco Harm Reduction Association Director Dr Colin Mendelsohn said it is a welcome delay. “I think the outrage from the community was just extraordinary. It makes no sense to make a far safer product hard to get.”

Read Further:

Welsh Doctors Look Into the Use of Nicotine Patches to Treat COVID-19

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