Australia’s psychiatrists are urging the government to lift its ban on nicotine-containing electronic cigarettes, saying their mentally ill patients, many of whom are heavy smokers, could ‘significantly benefit’ from the devices, according to a story by Esther Han for the Sydney Morning Herald.
In a submission to the federal government’s e-cigarette inquiry, the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists (RANZCP) said the mentally ill were more likely to smoke than were those who were not mentally ill, and that they were more likely than were other smokers to be heavy smokers, which meant their life expectancy was 20 years less than that of the general population.
‘E-cigarettes … 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,’ the submission said.
‘The RANZCP therefore supports a cautious approach that takes into account …the significant health benefits which these products present.’
The submission marks the first time a specialist medical college or major health group has broken ranks with Australia’s medical fraternity, which largely wants the ban on nicotine-containing e-cigarettes maintained because, they say, the safety of these devices and their efficacy as quitting aids are unclear.
It is legal to buy ‘vaping’ devices, but it is unlawful to sell, possess or use nicotine-containing ones because the chemical is classified as a poison.
This year the Therapeutic Goods Administration rejected an application to exempt the drug from the dangerous poisons list.
Professor David Castle, RANZCP board member, said the current restrictions on tobacco were not helping people with mental illness and e-cigarettes needed to be made available, albeit with caveats.
Seventy per cent of people with schizophrenia and 61 percent of people with bipolar disorder are smokers, compared to 16 percent of those without mental health problems, studies show.