Vaping to be studied as way for homeless to kick smoking habit

An Ottawa doctor is leading a study to see if vaping can help homeless people in the city kick their addiction to smoking tobacco.

96 per cent of Ottawa's homeless smoke tobacco: hospital study

Ottawa Hospital researchers are launching a trial to test the benefits of e-cigarettes against traditional methods like nicotine patches or gum. (Regis Duvignau /Reuters)

An Ottawa doctor is leading a study to see if vaping can help homeless people in the city kick their addiction to smoking tobacco.

The nation's capital has one of the lowest smoking rates in Ontario. That is until you look at those who are homeless, struggle to find housing or are addicted to drugs.

Almost all people who fall into these groups — 96 per cent — smoke tobacco, suggests research from the Ottawa Hospital.

"I see the end stages of lung cancer, lung disease," Dr. Smita Pakhale, a lung specialist, told CBC Radio's Ottawa Morning on Tuesday. 

Smita Pakhale is leading a study to see if vaping can help homeless people quit smoking. (Elise von Scheel/CBC)

"We spend so much money on tobacco-related diseases."

Her team at the hospital is launching a trial to test the benefits of e-cigarettes against traditional methods like nicotine patches or gum.

Participants will be split into two groups, one with patches and gum containing nicotine and the other with e-cigarettes. 

Pakhale's team hope to soon publish their findings in a study, she said.

Could e-cigarettes help homeless people quit smoking tobacco? That's the question a clinical trial hopes to answer. 5:45

'They are genuine souls'

All the things we hear about the general population's struggle to quit smoking is true of the homeless as well, Pakhale said.

It's just that more homeless people smoke, she said.

"People might think 'Oh, these homeless people want to smoke and drink.' That is not true," she said. 

"[Homeless] people are very hardworking, they are genuine souls like you and I."

Hoping to challenge the stigma of homeless people being addicted to various substances, Pakhale said she also wants to promote lung health in general. 

With files from CBC Radio's Ottawa Morning