We spoke to Fiona Edwards, who is a Smoking Cessation Practitioner and works with patients in hospital at Swansea Bay University Health Board. She told us about her experiences in supporting people to stop smoking during the Covid-19 outbreak.
How are your patients feeling about the Covid-19 outbreak?
Usually my patients have a chronic respiratory illness, like COPD, and they are very worried about Covid-19.
I find people fall into one of two camps – some are more determined to quit smoking because of Covid-19 and some are much more stressed due to the outbreak, which does make it harder for them when trying to quit smoking.
Many people are worried about losing their jobs, and the worry of loss of finances, and for them that is the biggest reason for wanting to quit smoking, in order to save the money they are spending on cigarettes.
What happens when your clients decide they want to quit smoking and are referred to you?
We are aligned with the pharmacies in the hospitals, so patients are referred to us from them. Sometimes they are still in hospital, for example this week I have been working with patients who are in coronary care in Morriston Hospital.
Normally (when not in lockdown) I go into the wards and see patients face-to-face with support sessions to quit smoking. This is not possible with the current lockdown procedures in place, so I phone the ward, speak to the patient over the phone, and we discuss what smoking cessation medication might be suitable for them. I then arrange delivery of the medication, usually Nicotine Replacement Therapy (patches, gum etc) to the ward. We usually arrange for them to go home with 2 weeks’ worth of medication with discharge, and then they will continue to receive medication for a total of 12 weeks.
If people are already at home when I start the support with them, I phone them and when we decide on what type of nicotine replacement therapy or medication suits them best, I post a letter to their home which they can take to the pharmacy to pick it up. If they are unable to leave their home, I send it to the pharmacy and then the pharmacy can arrange delivery.
What other issues do you find people quitting smoking are facing during the lockdown?
People who are using vape to quit smoking are having a difficult time because the vape shops are currently closed for the lockdown. They are concerned about ordering vape liquids and equipment from the internet in case of safety issues. They often prefer a particular brand but are now unable to find it. Also vape shop owners can be very knowledgeable and helpful advising people on which product best suits them and how to use them.
I am worried that it has become far easier for vapers to buy tobacco rather than vape, and that many vapers are going to say to themselves that they may as well buy cigarettes during the lockdown, and become hooked again.
I have worked with a lot of people over the 5 years that I have been a smoking cessation advisor and for some people who have been trying to quit for years, vaping is the one thing that has really made a difference. It doesn’t make sense that people can buy paint and garden furniture but they can’t buy vape products which are keeping them off smoking.
If you would like help to quit smoking, you can call the NHS Wales Help Me Quit service on 0800 085 2219 or visit the website helpmequit.wales for telephone support plus free stop smoking medication.