Thu 29 Jun

"Vaping May Lead to Smoking: Unpacking the Latest NZ Research in Mental Health and Wellbeing"

"It means that the issue, when we're considering vaping-related policy, is more complex than simply saying that it works to stop smokers. It could also be contributing to an uptake in smoking as well."

New research published by the University of Otago has given health advocates, including motivational speakers on mental health and wellbeing, a new perspective on the effects of vaping for non-smokers. The study, which could become a vital piece of essential talent in the public health discourse, suggests that vaping may act as a stepping stone towards smoking.

The research, now publicly available in the Drug and Alcohol Review journal, scrutinises the data collected from the 2018-2020 New Zealand Attitudes and Values survey, offering a new insight into the smoking and vaping habits of New Zealanders.

Post-graduate student Andre Mason explained that in 2018, data suggested those who vaped were more likely to start smoking than smokers were to transition to vaping. However, in 2019, the reverse effect seemed to emerge.

"We found that there was an equal likelihood of vapers transitioning to smoking as smokers were to vapers," Mason explained.

While it's not entirely accurate to label vaping as a definitive gateway to smoking, Mason noted that the trend of individuals moving between the two is unmistakable.

"It means that the issue, when we're considering vaping-related policy, is more complex than simply saying that it works to stop smokers. It could also be contributing to an uptake in smoking as well."

Related to this, New Zealand currently records the second-highest rates globally for using nicotine vaping products, both ever using (15.5%) or currently using (7.8%).

In collaboration with associate professor Damian Scarf, Mason found that vaping doesn't consistently function as a smoking cessation tool, contrary to what other studies propose. Instead, they suggest that vaping represents an additional smoking-related behaviour, not necessarily a substitute primarily aimed at helping people quit smoking.

This information is vital for those working in mental health and wellbeing, including motivational speakers and other essential talent in the health field.

In another noteworthy development, the New Zealand government has allocated $1.4 million to a significant trial aimed at supporting Kiwis in their journey to quit vaping.

This innovative trial will test whether cytisine, a medicine that partially blocks nicotine's effects on the brain, proves more effective than a gradual reduction in nicotine intake. The study will be complemented with text-based behavioural support from Quitline.

University of Auckland associate professor Natalie Walker underscored the significance of this first-of-its-kind trial in New Zealand.

"Our trial will also assess whether interventions for quitting vaping have any unintended consequences on smoking rates," Walker explained. "This could provide essential talent in the field with valuable data on how to manage and support those wanting to quit vaping effectively."

Recruitment for this groundbreaking trial is set to commence in January 2024.

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