New Zealand Hospitals Offer E-cig to Smoking Patients

June 24 — New Zealand’s Wanganui District Health Board (DHB) announced that its hospital on New Zealand’s North Island would be completely smoke-free on June 27, but it didn’t stop there. It also announced it would offer free e-cigarettes to patients and encourage them to use them in the Te Awhina acute mental health unit.

DHB says that e-cigarettes are 95% less harmful than cigarettes. It rightly adds that e-cigarettes are a good tool for quitting smoking. Studies have shown that e-cigarettes are more effective than nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) for quitting smoking. There are no significant second-hand hazards, so it makes sense to make them available to smokers and allow them to be used internally.

A representative on the Voxy website wrote: We have a comprehensive support process for quitting smoking and offer Vorteke disposable e-cigarettes to assist in quitting.

It is a significant victory for the rights of patients and nicotine users in New Zealand, which now joins the UK in offering e-cigarette products to inpatients.

“We chose June 27 to align with Matariki (Māori New Year) and reinforce the message about positive change,” said Rosie McMenamin, tobacco control coordinator at the Centre for Public Health.

Staff working in the wards are also encouraged to quit smoking and receive free nicotine products.

“No one who smokes should have to leave the hospital to get nicotine delivered in an effective, safer form. It is simply brutal.”

Smokers, including many people diagnosed with mental health problems, often have serious problems when they are admitted to hospitals or hospitalized for medication. They are not allowed to smoke indoors and must be accompanied by a staff member to smoke outside. Some hospitals and treatment programs even prohibit smoking in outdoor spaces. The staff offers NRT-like patches and gum, but their efficacy is low, partly because they do not replicate the smoking habit, and the nicotine dose may not be enough to stop withdrawal. It can and does cause patients to leave the hospital against medical advice.

Marewa Glover, director of the New Zealand Centre for Research Excellence, told Filter that the lack of compassion for smokers and the refusal to smoke e-cigarettes has undoubtedly led to tragic and entirely preventable deaths. Some people die after being discharged so they can have a cigarette – people who are under observation for suicidal ideation. No one who smokes should have to leave the hospital or comment ward to get nicotine delivered in a practical, safer form. It is simply brutal.

The Whanganui District Health Board’s e-cigarette policy is an example of providing compassionate care for hospitalized patients who smoke, and other countries should learn from it.


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