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Research keeps showing that smoking is more prevalent amongst vulnerable groups and those of a lower socio economic status. A study from 2013 looking at 858 drug users in inner-city Ottawa found that 96% of them were smokers. “It means the people who smoke today are mostly low-income, indigenous, homeless, poorly educated, marginalized,” said Dr. Smita Pakhalé.

Pakhalé, a research scientist and staff respirologist at Ottawa Hospital, will be carrying out a clinical trial aiming to determine whether e-cigarettes can be effective tools in helping such marginalized groups such as the homeless, quit smoking. The funding for this study comes from a $100,000 grant that the hospital received from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research earlier this year. To conduct this research, 200 homeless people from Ottawa and Toronto will be randomly selected for this controlled trial.

“It means the people who smoke today are mostly low-income, indigenous, homeless, poorly educated, marginalized.” Dr. Smita Pakhalé, Lead Study Author

The participants will then be split in two groups, the first group will receive conventional NRTs such as nicotine patches and gum. The second group will be given electronic cigarettes, and both groups will have access to nursing care and peer support.

“We’re trying to understand if e-cigarettes can be in our toolbox since they have some features that could be attractive: They can deliver calculated doses of nicotine in an inhaled fashion and, secondly, they can give smokers that hand-to-mouth gesture that they crave,” said Dr. Pakhalé.

“We’re trying to understand if e-cigarettes can be in our toolbox since they have some features that could be attractive: They can deliver calculated doses of nicotine in an inhaled fashion and, secondly, they can give smokers that hand-to-mouth gesture that they crave.”Dr. Smita Pakhalé, Lead Study Author

Tobacco addiction should be treated as a chronic disease

Research keeps indicating that the majority of smokers do wish to quit smoking, and this includes homeless. “Even in the health care field,” Pakhalé said, “we don’t treat tobacco as a chronic disease for homeless people, which is what we should be doing. … From head to toe, each and every organ, is affected by smoking.”

“Even in the health care field, we don’t treat tobacco as a chronic disease for homeless people, which is what we should be doing. … From head to toe, each and every organ, is affected by smoking.” Dr. Smita Pakhalé, Lead Study Author

She added, that unfortunately homeless people cannot afford to pay for any therapies that could help or support them, and pointed out that this is one of the issues that this trial aims to address, since NRTs will be given out free of charge.

Read Further: Ottawa Citizen