Aussie vapers now able to get nicotine prescriptions
Posted on April 26, 2020
AUSTRALIAN doctors are now providing nicotine prescriptions when suitable for smokers who cannot quit with conventional treatments and choose to vape. A list of GPs who provide this service is available on the ATHRA website. Consultations can be provided face-to-face, by telephone or video and in many cases are bulk-billed.
The use of nicotine liquid for vaping is recommended as a second-line treatment for smokers who are motivated to quit smoking but have been unsuccessful with conventional treatments. Smokers who are unable to quit should discuss with their doctor whether vaping is an appropriate quitting method for them.
Until recently, Australian doctors have been reluctant to write nicotine prescriptions. However, three leading Australian medical Colleges now acknowledge a role for vaping to help smokers quit:
- The Royal Australasian College of Physicians (April 2020)
- The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (January 2020)
- The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists (November 2018)
The College of General Practitioners requires that smokers should first raise the topic with their doctor and that patients should be informed that:
- No tested and approved e-cigarette products are available
- The long-term health effects of vaping are unknown
- Possession of nicotine-containing e-liquid without a prescription is illegal
- In order to maximise possible benefit and minimise risk of harms, only short-term use should be recommended
- Dual use (ie with continued tobacco smoking) needs to be avoided.
Vaping is a far safer alternative to smoking for adult smokers. Vaping is used short-term as a stepping-stone to quitting or as a long-term replacement for smoking if needed to prevent relapse.
The availability of nicotine prescriptions is an important breakthrough for smokers and vapers as it is a criminal offence to possess liquid nicotine in Australia without a prescription
Many smokers have been faced with the choice of serious health damage from smoking or the risk of criminal charges for choosing an effective quitting method. There are now 300,000 vapers in Australia and most have been forced to break the law to improve their health.
Vapers do not need to show their prescription to the retailer when ordering. Prescriptions should be kept in a safe place in case requested by authorities. It is a good idea to keep a photo of your prescription on your smartphone.
Penalties for possessing nicotine without a prescription are severe and include a $45,000 fine for each offence in Western Australia to jail terms of up to 2 years in the NT, TAS and ACT.
Training for doctors
Vaping and nicotine prescribing are new and unfamiliar skills for most medicos in Australia. Doctors who would like to learn more can contact ATHRA for further training, here.
ATHRA has a 5-page handout for doctors which summarises the science and legal issues and provides practical information for counselling patients, such as how to select a vaping device and nicotine concentration, where to buy devices and nicotine and how to write a nicotine prescription. There is also a handout for patients who have received a prescription.
ATHRA will happily provide telephone advice for doctors and we have a range of other resources on our website to provide further education. Doctors can create an account at www.athra.org.au and log in to the Health Professional section for more.
We will also have podcasts and a webinar as well for GP training in the near future.
Posted by Colin Mendelsohn, firstname.lastname@example.org