Public health is increasingly seen as the route to treat and change behaviour by government but traditional, evidence-based approaches to regulation and advice are increasingly outpaced by the rate of technological advance.

This week Optician looks at two public health topics practitioners will encounter every day that fall into that camp – screen use and smoking.
The time children spend looking at screens (In Focus, page 6) is up for debate once again following a high profile case in China. Despite the lack of physiological evidence it appears obvious that young children spending hours a day at a screen cannot be good for their general, ocular or mental health. Studies conducted today will be readily outpaced by the technology introduced tomorrow.

Public health approaches have been suggested for everything from cardiovascular disease to mental wellbeing and knife crime; but the big three – alcohol, obesity and smoking continue to dominate. In this issue Dr Rohit Narayan offers an excellent update (CET, page 23) on vaping, or e-cigarettes.

Initially seen as a safe alternative to tobacco smoking, vaping is increasingly seen as a gateway into, rather than a roadblock against, smoking. Questions have also been raised about the formulations being vaped. The UK’s approach to vaping is more lenient than many countries and will surely be a target for companies with existing products and those currently winning over youngsters in the US with second generation vaping products such as JUUL.

Public Health England takes the view that vaping is much safer than smoking but opinion is divided. Optometrists need to be armed with the latest thinking.

Given the questions being raised, optical professionals should certainly take part in Dr Narayan’s CET module and pass on relevant evidence to their smoking or vaping patients.