Prescription vape products will help people quit smoking, says pharmacist
With the guidance of medical professionals, it carries less risk than cigarettes.
The number of smokers in Australia is decreasing, but tobacco smoke is still one of the leading causes of preventable disease and death. Pharmacist and founder of MyDuke, Craig Frawley, believes prescription vape products can help people quit.
Australia is one of the most expensive countries in the world to have a tobacco habit, with the average 20-pack deck costing around $35.
This has been an effective strategy to encourage smokers to quit—data shows a steady decline of smokers in the country—as well as discouraging new ones.
The decline is good news, but smoking is still a leading cause of preventable disease and death in Australia, accounting for 9.3 percent of the total burden of disease in the country. It’s also responsible for one in every eight deaths, which is why the price point alone isn’t enough to get people to quit. As it’s an addiction, going ‘cold turkey’ can be challenging.
Withdrawals from nicotine can cause intense cravings, restlessness, increased appetite, and irritability, which is why vaping products were popular among those who wanted to quit smoking but needed something to help wean them off nicotine.
Earlier this month, Australia made it illegal to buy e-cigarettes, nicotine pods, and liquid nicotine used in vaping products without a doctor’s prescription.
It was both in a bid to make it more difficult for teenagers to access these products (which are still addictive and harmful as they contain toxic chemicals) but also to “provide a legal avenue for smoking cessation with advice from authorised medical professionals,” a spokesperson for Health Minister Greg Hunt said at the time.
Craig Frawley, pharmacist and founder of MyDuke, a platform that connects patients with authorised doctors and pharmacists, thinks it’s a positive move.
“A lot of vapers are either trying to quit smoking or have successfully jumped from cigarettes to e-cigarettes,” he says.
“Over the past 10 years, millions of Australians have quit smoking and a proportion have utilised vaping to do this. As a pharmacist, I want patients off cigarettes and nicotine replacement strategies to work to assist patients in this process.”
He continues: “But importantly, if vaping is to be a more recognised pathway for quitting smoking, then products need to be safe, and the patient needs to be provided with sufficient quitting strategies.”
The difference between smoking and vaping is that smoking delivers nicotine by burning tobacco leaves, while vape products deliver nicotine through a vaporised liquid. Both are addictive, but one is slightly less harmful than the other and as a prescribed substance, its exact contents will be regulated by the Therapeutic Goods Administration. When it comes to price, Frawley says “e-liquids compare very favourably,” especially as MyDuke provides a zero-cost service.
Of course, all medications come with risks—even over-the-counter painkillers come with some—but talking through a patient’s options with a doctor can help mitigate these risks.
“With a specially trained team, the medicine risk is minimised, and most importantly, we get patients off cigarettes and that’s worth fighting for,” says Frawley.