Small Acts of Kindness Can go a Long Way

People will forget what you said, they will forget what you did, but they will never forget how you made them feel— Maya Angelou

It seems Dr. Smita Pakhalé, a doctor, research scientist and respirologist with the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute in Canada, fully understands the sentiment behind Maya Angelou’s words as she sets to launch a clinical trial to determine whether giving e-cigarettes to homeless people can help them quit smoking.

The last survey concerning global homelessness was conducted in 2015 by the Homeless World Cup Foundation.  At that time, an estimated 100 million people were said to be homeless worldwide and as many as 1.6 billion people lacked adequate housing.

In Canada alone, at least 200,000 Canadian residents are said to have experienced homelessness in any given year. 1.5 million people or about 0.5% of the U.S. population used an emergency shelter or some type of transitional housing program in any given year.

It goes without saying that the world’s homeless are at an increased risk for adverse health-related outcomes. Understanding the nature of homelessness and the relationship between resource availability and accessibility is critical in order to diagnose and treat health-related problems in this vulnerable population.

According to research, smoking is more prevalent amongst vulnerable groups and those of a lower socio-economic status, aka— the homeless.

A 2013 study in the inner-city of Ottawa found that of out of 858 drug users, 96% were smokers.

“This means the people who smoke today are mainly marginalized, living off low-incomes, without a home, homegrown and poorly educated,” said Dr. Smita Pakhalé.

Research continues to show that the majority of smokers (the homeless included) want to quit their harmful habit, which is why Dr. Pakhalé will be spearheading a clinical trial aiming to determine whether e-cigarettes can be used as an effective tool in helping those in marginalized corners of society to quit smoking.

According to an article by vapingpost.com, the funding for this study comes from a $100,000 grant from the Canadian Institute of Health Research. Approximately 200 homeless people from both Ottawa and Toronto will be selected at random to participate in this controlled trial.

As stated by those heading this study, randomly chosen participants will be divided up into two groups; the first group will receive NRTs, such as nicotine patches and gum. The second group will be given an e-cigarette.

“We’re trying to understand if e-cigarettes can be in our toolbox since they have some features that could be attractive,” says Dr. Pakhalé. “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 smoke.”

Dr. Pakhalé adds, “unfortunately homeless people cannot afford to pay for therapies, which is one of the issues that this trial aims to address, since NRTs will be given out free of charge.”

The article fails to mention whether or not electronic cigarette devices will be given out free as well.


Supposedly, the late actor Robin Williams requested that for every movie he worked on, or event he participated in, the producers hire a certain number of homeless people in the area for work.

Just some added food for thought.

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Andrew Figgs

Photography Major from Western Washington University . I joined MBV back in December 2014 and am happy to be working in an industry focused on helping others.

  • evan says:

    i never shove the “convert to e-cig” down smokers throats. In fact, it’s hard to even go near any smoker now because the smell makes me so nauseous! lol

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