Smokers to be encouraged to swap cigarettes for vapes
One million smokers in England are to be encouraged to swap cigarettes for vapes under a new ‘swap to stop’ scheme designed to cut smoking rates.
In what is described as a “world-first national scheme”, almost 1 in 5 of all smokers in England will be provided with a vape starter kit alongside behavioural support to help them quit the habit.
The move is part of a series of new measures to help the government meet its ambition of being smokefree by 2030 – defined as reducing smoking rates to 5 per cent or less.
Local authorities will be invited to take part in the scheme later this year and each will design a scheme which suits its needs, including deciding which populations to prioritise.
There will be a choice of products, strengths and flavours that will allow quitters to find the product that works best for them. Smokers who join this scheme must commit to quitting smoking with expert support, including through local authority-led stop smoking services
Following the success of local schemes, pregnant women are to be offered financial incentives to help them stop smoking. This will involve offering vouchers, alongside behavioural support, to all pregnant women who smoke by the end of next year.
Women who engage with stop smoking support and provide a low reading on a carbon monoxide breath test to show they are smokefree will be issued with an e-voucher. The exact value and timing of each voucher has yet to be determined, but they will be available at regular intervals throughout the pregnancy
The government is also to consult on introducing mandatory cigarette pack inserts with positive messages and information to help people to quit smoking.
Additionally, there will be a crackdown on illicit vape sales as part of measures to stop children and non-smokers take up the habit, which is growing in popularity among young people. NHS figures for 2021 showed that 9 per cent of 11 to 15-year-old children used e-cigarettes, up from 6 per cent in 2018.
Smoking prevalence in England in 2021 was 13 per cent - the lowest on record. However, 5.4 million people in England still smoke tobacco and it remains the single biggest cause of preventable illness and death.
Commenting on the announcements, Deborah Arnott, chief executive of ASH, said: “In 2019 the government committed to making England smokefree by 2030, but it took four years for a public health minister to secure concrete action to deliver. Vapes increase smokers’ chances of successfully quitting, as do vouchers for pregnant smokers so these are welcome steps in the right direction, but they are nowhere near sufficient.
“Last year’s Khan report, commissioned by government, warned that without immediate and sustained action the smokefree 2030 target would be missed by years. Not enough has changed, so that is still the case.”