The Irish Mail on Sunday
A dumb attack on vaping
THE HSE is hardly renowned for decisiveness when it comes to patients’ and doctors’ worries. Witness the debacle over the review of discretionary medical cards which, after 18 months, has finally come to a head in the form of their removal from very sick people.
Why has it taken the State and its agencies well over a year to recognise – and believe – the overwhelming and often very distressing evidence that there was a widespread cull of medical cards in progress?
Why is the health system now awash with inquiries and investigations into deaths within some of our most high-profile hospitals? And why did it take prolonged media investigations to bring about these inquiries despite the fact that many families had been seeking redress for years?
But now, at last, the HSE has moved with a speed and alacrity that would leave other bodies breathless.
This month it banned the use of e-cigarettes, not just in the nation’s hospitals, but also outside the front door and on every single square inch of the ‘medical campus’ – no ifs or buts.
I’ve had reason to visit one of the Dublin’s busiest hospitals on numerous occasions over the past six weeks. And while the people I was visiting didn’t smoke, I did see others ‘vaping’ in hospital wards.
Each person I spoke to was adamant that they were using the mechanical devices to cut down and quit smoking.
And without exception they were adamant that the devices were working. They were not causing any upset, distress or inconvenience to others.
But still, the new, decisive HSE not only told these patients to ditch the e-cigs, it told them that if they wished to inhale, not only had they to leave the hospital building – they had to stand on the nearest public street.
It was staff in these hospitals who have been most vociferous in opposing this ban. Some of them have pointed out to me that it can put them in danger.
Shift workers in hospitals have told me that having to step outside a hospital campus in the middle of the night on their meal breaks if they want to use their e-cigarettes leaves them dangerously exposed.
So what scientific evidence has the HSE produced in order to implement what is its most clear cut decision this century?
A recent massive study – undertaken over five years by the University of London – revealed that those trying to quit smoking are 60% more likely to succeed if they use e-cigs.
Another study in the medical research magazine Addiction backs these findings.
And vaping is much more effective and cheaper than the rip-off nicotine patches.
But when the HSE was parading from one radio studio to another trumpeting its macho ban on vaping on campus, it cited anecdotal evidence about one young child who picked up an e-cigarette and inquired if it was a cigarette – I kid you not.
No doubt the bosses of the €700bn tobacco industry are rubbing their hands in glee at this blow to their biggest threat ever.
While nobody in their right mind would encourage anyone to smoke – and we should all campaign to rid the world of the scourge – a kneejerk ban on what is now shown to be an effective, if not perfect, way of quitting the weed is a misguided display of power and little else.
THE Battle of the Bay today won’t decide who will represent the capital in Brussels, it’s just a magnificent event on Dollymount strand. Yes, there will be lots of hot air and flying by the seat of your pants but these will be the power source for the best acrobatic kite-surfers in the world. It’s all free, so drop by today and give them a wave!
DUBLIN’S traffic supremos were quick to boast last Tuesday that the new €13m Rosie Hackett Bridge is dedicated to the Luas – still three years away – and closed to the ‘private motorist’ (who hands over €6m a day in taxes and tolls). So it’s worth reminding all and sundry that it took just two days for ‘private’ motorists to pay for this bridge they can’t use.
RTÉ is a hive of creative novel writing at the moment; Liz Nugent, a scriptwriter on Fair City, has written a great psychological thriller, Unravelling Oliver, while Lyric presenter John Kelly’s From Out Of The City is getting rave reviews and the arts and media correspondent Sinéad Crowley is hitting the bestseller lists with her debut, Can Anybody Help Me?