In an article published last week on the Irish Medical Times, Consultant in Public Health Medicine and Adviser to the HSE Tobacco Free Ireland Programme, Dr. Paul Kavanagh said that HIQA’s next step is to begin working on devising new guidelines for the diagnosis and treatment of nicotine addiction. This is in continuation to the publication of the organisation’s final health technology assessment (HTA) report about the increased use of e cigarettes aiding smokers to quit.
The HTA report examined the cost effectiveness of vaping products and was released in the first week of January. It was the first of its kind in Europe. “HIQA’s analysis shows that increased uptake of e cigarettes as an aid to quitting would increase the number of people who successfully quit compared with the existing situation in Ireland, and would be cost-effective provided that the currently available evidence on their effectiveness is confirmed by further studies.”
Cost of smoking to the Public Health Service
Dr Kavanagh pointed out that in 2016 alone, the cost of smoking amounted to €500 million for the Public Health Service. As a result of smoking, there were more than 100,000 hospital in-patient episodes. Of these episodes, there were 1 in 3 admissions due to respiratory disease, 1 in 5 due to cardiovascular disease and 1 in 10 caused by smoking related cancers.
Dr. Kavanagh stated that “as health services strain to meet increasing demand, it is cold comfort to think that the additional investment of €458.6 million by the Government to place the health services on a sustainable financial footing will barely cover smoking attributable costs”.
In addition to costs to the Public Health Service, there was €1 million lost in productivity, €6 million on fires, €70 million on litter, and nearly €10 billion on morbidity and mortality as a result of smoking.
The opportunity in electronic cigarettes
The HTA report which was carried out upon a request by Dr Fenton Howell, the National Tobacco Control Adviser at the Department of Health, pointed out that if vaping products had to reach the same popularity as they did in England, where as a result the lowest number of smokers ever recorded is being reported, the number of NRT prescriptions by medical professionals could be expected to diminish by 40%.