I have great pleasure in writing a foreword for this important book which could help prevent the early deaths of possibly hundreds of thousands of Australian smokers.
As a specialist in addiction medicine and the Director of the Alcohol and Drug Service at St Vincents’ Hospital in inner Sydney for over thirty years, I have treated many thousands of people who use drugs. I have also been actively involved in drug harm reduction campaigns to reduce the death and disease from drug use. I have campaigned with colleagues for needle and syringe programs to prevent HIV in people who inject drugs, safe injecting rooms, methadone programs and the distribution of condoms to prevent HIV and other sexually transmitted infections. Although fiercely resisted initially, these initiatives have saved countless lives and are now widely accepted.
I see strong parallels with vaping nicotine as a way to reduce the harm from smoking in adult smokers. Most smokers try to quit and fail repeatedly. Tragically, up to two out of three who continue to smoke will die prematurely from their smoking and will live ten years less on average. Clearly additional, effective strategies are needed to help them. Many people who inject heroin also struggle to quit on their own. Some do. But many benefit from help from health professionals including methadone treatment.
When Colin asked me to look into vaping nicotine as a safer alternative for smoking, I could see that this harm reduction strategy had huge potential to help smokers, many of whom are disadvantaged and suffering huge financial stress from highly priced cigarettes.
I have known Colin for over thirty years. He has been dedicated to helping smokers quit during that time and has trained more health professionals on smoking than anyone else in Australia. He has been actively involved in research and publishing scientific articles on smoking.
Colin was the first doctor in Australia to recognise the potential for vaping. He could see how it was helping his patients to quit, often after all other treatments had failed. He studied the evidence and overseas experience and became a passionate advocate for vaping, which was facing widespread opposition from Australian government health departments, medical associations and health charities.
In 2017, along with several colleagues we established the Australian Tobacco Harm Reduction Association, a health promotion charity, to raise awareness of vaping nicotine and to educate the public about it. We have been working closely together on vaping since then.
Vaping nicotine is now Australia’s most popular and most effective quitting aid. It allows smokers to get the nicotine they need while still enjoying the smoking ritual and sensations of ‘smoking’. Vaping is not risk-free but is a far less harmful alternative to smoking as almost all of the harmful toxins and carcinogens in smoke are absent. Vaping is only for smokers and should not be used by non-smokers of any age.
I am delighted Colin has written this much needed book. He has an encyclopaedic knowledge of the area, is amazingly up to date and completely committed to the scientific evidence. Smokers need accurate information on vaping and it is very hard to access this in Australia due to the entrenched opposition, alarmist media reports and restrictive regulations around vaping. This book provides the latest information in a readable and well-organised way.
If you are a smoker who has been unable to quit with other treatments, this book is for you. It outlines the scientific evidence for vaping and gives practical, step-by-step advice on how to get started with vaping such as what to buy, where to get it and how to use it safely and legally.
The book is also a valuable guide for GPs and other health practitioners who wish to counsel smokers on vaping. It will also be useful to a wide range of other stakeholders as it also addresses the controversies about vaping and how it should be regulated in Australia.
I have seen the enormous public health benefit from other drug harm reduction strategies, and I am convinced that vaping will be even more beneficial. If you are a smoker, switching to vaping will improve your health, expose you to far fewer toxins, save you money and make you feel and smell much better.
Quitting smoking is the best thing you will ever do for your health. If you can’t quit smoking, switching to vaping is the next best thing. This book will show you how and could save your life.
Dr Alex Wodak AM
Director, Australian Tobacco Harm Reduction Association
Emeritus Consultant, St Vincents’ Hospital, Sydney