Nicotine replacement therapy
Nicotine replacement therapy replaces to some extent the nicotine a person would have received from smoking. The dose depends on the amount of cigarettes smoked, intensity and pattern of habit. NICE (2018) recommends a long- acting product (e.g. a patch) and a short-acting product of which there are many varieties; these provide a dose of nicotine to help cravings. Most are absorbed sublingually (e.g. vaping, gum, spray or inhalator). The dose is usually titrated down over a 12-week period, however heavy smokers may need longer.
Electronic Nicotine Delivery Devices (ENDDs) including e-cigarettes
ENDDs are electronic devices that mimic cigarettes and release vapor and is commonly known as vaping or E-cigs. There are hundreds of different types of devices and juices available. Statutory regulation commenced in 2016 which has two types:
Consumer products: manufacturers will need to register products, there are standards that need to be adhered to and advertising is restricted.
Licensed products: manufacturers could apply for a medicines license which could then enable prescribing and advertising would be permitted. To date (2019) there are no devices with a license that are being manufactured.
A common question is whether electronic cigarettes should be recommended by health care professionals. Public Health England (2016) published a report that indicates that they carry a fraction of the risk of smoking cigarettes but are not risk free. However, if a person is smoking tobacco then we know that they have at least 50% risk of dying from a smoking related disease, often in middle age. Public Health England (2019) have published an update regarding the evidence reviewed by leading independent tobacco experts. See: Vaping in England: an evidence update February 2019.
The evidence-base is still evolving and there is a lot of debate for and against e-cigarettes, but there are some excellent resources available which are being updated as new evidence emerges, see: Electronic cigarettes: A briefing for stop smoking services.
Some people will have switched to e-cigarettes and stopped using tobacco whilst others may be using an e-cigarette to quit tobacco. Some may be using both tobacco and e-cigarettes depending on the circumstances and this is referred to as ‘dual use’. We should encourage all and especially the ‘quitter’ to accept a referral to local stop smoking services for support to aid their quit. Receiving behavioural support along with their use of e-cigarettes could improve their long-term chances of quitting tobacco and should be offered.
The RCN is a member on the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on smoking and health and has been supporting the lobbying on guidance and support on e-cigarettes and how they can best be used to support smoking cessation. See the Government's regulation and guidance on e-cigarettes and vaping. See also the RCN's policy briefing: Revision of European legislation on Tobacco Products Directive. RCN Position Statement (2013). A report to the UK All PartyParliamentary Groups has summarised evidence relating to key issues surrounding e-cigarettes.
The European Union and its Member States have taken various tobacco control measures in the form of legislation, recommendations and information campaigns. Tobacco consumption is the single largest avoidable health risk in the European Union. It is the most significant cause of premature death, responsible for nearly 700,000 deaths every year. Around 50 percent of smokers die prematurely, on average 14 years earlier.
The Smoking in Pregnancy Challenge Group has published a new document: Use of electronic cigarettes in pregnancy: A guide for midwives and other healthcare professionals. The briefing is intended to provide a summary of the evidence on electronic cigarettes, with suggested responses to some frequently asked questions about their use during pregnancy. Public Health England has also published a blog: Achieving a smokefree pregnancy: can e-cigarettes help? See also: RCN Midwifery Forum.
Cancer Research UK has some useful documents and briefings on the role of e-cigarettes, the evidence to date on their safety, impact and role in smoking cessation.
The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (ROSPA) has produced guidance on vaping in the home. There is also a good blog on safety advice for parents and families from Jo Locker, Tobacco Control Manager, Public Health England, see: Vaping in the home: advice for parents.
Varenicline (Champix) is a partial agonist that prevents nicotine reaching receptors, it also releases dopamine to help with cravings. The dose is titrated meaning the person smokes for 8–14 days before quitting. The course of oral tablets is usually 12 weeks.
Bupropion (Zyban) is an older drug not now commonly used. Its primary use was as an antidepressant and it was found the oral tablets had the beneficial side effect of assisting smoking cessation. A course usually lasts 8–12 weeks.
Making every contact count
Making every contact count is an approach that uses the millions of contacts with individuals that health professionals & organisations have to support them with positive changes for their physical, mental health and wellbeing. This is a responsibility for all health care staff and those working in nursing and midwifery should ensure they have the skills to adopt this approach.
This involves asking about lifestyle, giving brief Advice and then referring on to a service or individual that can provide a more in-depth intervention. It is also referred to as Brief Intervention Advice and is summarised:
What we should be doing
The National Centre for Smoking Cessation and Training (NCSCT) has developed a short training module on how to deliver Very Brief Advice on Smoking. The training module is built around evidence-based behaviour change techniques that provide an understanding of the factors involved in smoking and smoking cessation. The training programme has been shown to increase practitioners' knowledge, develop their skills and lead to improved practice.
The behaviour change techniques contained within the NCSCTs Very Brief Advice (VBA) are:
ASK - all patients if they smoke
ADVISE - the best way to stop
ACT - provide a referral or offer behavioural support and drug treatment