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 following the publication of HIQA’s final technology assessment(HTA) report, which examined the effectiveness and financial practicality of smoking cessation methods, the organization’s next step is to begin working on devising the right guidelines for the treatment of nicotine addiction.
Subsequently these guidelines would be passed on to the National Clinical Effectiveness Committee for vetting by the Ministry of Health, after which an implementation strategy will be developed.
The health technology assessment (HTA), examining the cost effectiveness of the products was released in the first week of January and is 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.”
Smoking cost public health €500 million in 2016
Dr Kavanagh pointed out that just in 2016, smoking led to a cost of €500 million on public health services. The habit was responsible for more than 100,000 hospital in-patient episodes with one every three adult hospital admissions caused by respiratory disease, one-in-five due to cardiovascular disease and one-in-10 due to smoking related cancers.
“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,” he said. Additionally, he pointed out that the social costs of smoking were even larger, with approximately €1m lost in productivity, €6m due to fires, €70m on litter, and a significant €10 billion on morbidity and mortality caused by the habit.
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, amongst other things the number of NRT prescriptions by medical professionals could be expected to diminish by 40%.