The government has revealed it will promote vaping as one of its strategies to make England smoke-free by 2030.
Earlier this week, it released updated plans about how it will reduce adult smoking prevalence to below five per cent within the next seven years.
Khan Review 2022
Last year, the Khan Review: Making Smoking Obsolete was published, giving guidance on what changes need to be made to avoid England missing its target.
It stated that without adopting its recommendations, the country will not hit its goal until 2037, while some of the poorest areas will fail to reach it until 2044.
One of its 15 suggestions was to promote vaping as a way to quit smoking. Others included increasing investment in cessation policies, raising the age of sale from 18 by one year every year, and offering advice on quitting through the NHS.
What happened to the government’s Tobacco Control Plan?
After the review was published, UK health secretary at the time Sajid Javid claimed the government would use it to create a new Tobacco Control Plan.
However, when Dr Therese Coffey became health secretary, she revealed the government no longer planned to release an updated version of the plan, claiming it was focused on other areas of healthcare.
Minister for primary care and public health Neil O’Brien recently said: “Tobacco and tobacco control will be threaded through the Major Conditions Strategy.”
Speaking at a debate on National No Smoking Day, Mr O’Brien stated he would “unveil a set of proposals to realise the smokefree 2030 ambition and to respond to the Khan Review’s recommendations”.
However, the government subsequently said its proposals to reach its 2030 target will be unveiled separately to the Major Conditions Strategy.
The government introduces new measures
Mr O’Brien later told the House of Commons about the government’s plans to meet the 2030 smokefree goal.
These measures include introducing a national scheme to provide smokers with a vaping kit to help them quit smoking.
One million smokers over two years will be able to ‘swap to stop’, ditching cigarettes in favour of liquid vapes.
The initiative will be aimed at “the most at-risk communities first – focusing on settings such as job centres, homeless centres, and social housing providers”.
James Lowman, chief executive of the Association of Convenience Stores, showed his support for the scheme, saying: “We strongly welcome this course of action from the government, harnessing the potential for vaping to accelerate the decline in smoking rates.”
He added: “It’s encouraging that the government [is] committing new resources and some innovative approaches to make this happen.”
Gillian Golden, chief executive of the Independent British Vape Trade Association (IBVTA), also responded to the government’s measures.
She stated: “The IBVTA is delighted with news that the UK Government not only recognises vaping as a safe and effective quit method, but that they are also committing to directly support smokers to quit using vapes.”
How does vaping help smokers quit?
Vaping is a great smoking cessation aid, as it provides an alternative for smokers who are not able to go ‘cold turkey’.
1. Firstly, it allows smokers to still enjoy a nicotine hit, without inhaling tobacco. Nicotine is hard to give up, as it is known to boost mood, reduce depression, and make you less irritable.
Therefore, smokers might find giving this up most challenging. However, they can start by doing away with tobacco, while still getting their nicotine fix.
When they feel ready, they can begin to reduce their nicotine intake too.
2. The second way it helps smokers quit is it fits in with their lifestyle habits.
For instance, smokers find simple things like not being able to have a cigarette after dinner or during their break difficult to let go of or they might need something to play with in their hands or hold between their fingers.
Therefore, vaping helps them to break their habits slowly, giving them a higher chance of succeeding.
3. Another reason why people might be inclined to vape instead of smoke is it is not as expensive. A typical pack of 20 cigarettes was £12.61 in 2022, which means those who go through ten a day will still shell out £2,301 on their habit a year.
If health reasons are not enough reason to quit, financial incentives might be.
What are the other new measures to achieve smokefree goal?
Introducing the national vape scheme was not the only measure outlined by the government.
Its other strategies include updating HMRC protocol to address illicit tobacco.
The government also revealed it will commit £3 million to crack down on illegal vapes as well, implementing and enforcing rules to reduce illicit vapes and underage sales.
Next year, it will offer financial incentives to pregnant women to quit smoking, and it hopes to introduce mandatory cigarette packet inserts to deter people from buying them.
This will “refresh the health messaging on cigarette packets with positive messages and information to help people to quit smoking”.
It also wants to reduce the number of people under the age of 18 being able to buy or use vape products.
However, it wants to continue “ensuring they are still easily available as a quit aid for adult smokers”.
ASH’s response to the updated proposals
While the latest proposals show the government is taking action to meet its target, some have argued they do not go far enough.
Deborah Arnott, chief executive of ASH, said the measures are “nowhere near sufficient”.
She noted that the Khan review recommended investment of £125 million a year, which is substantially more than the £3 million the government has committed.
“Last year’s Khan report, commissioned by the government, warned that without immediate and sustained action the smokefree 2030 target would be missed by years,” Ms Arnott stated.
“Not enough has changed, so that is still the case,” she added.
As well as a lack of funding, she believed the absence of tougher regulations to increase the age of sale and limit the appeal of smoking could result in failure to achieve the target.