The NHS Would Save Millions Yearly if Half of UK Smokers Switched to Vapes
A study by researchers at Brunel University London reported that hospital admissions would drop by 13% if half of all smokers switched to vapes, potentially saving the NHS more than £500 million per year.
The research team calculated that between 2019 and 2021, 13.6% of people in England aged 18 and above smoked. The lowest rate was found in the South East at 12.2% and the highest in the North East and Yorkshire at 15%.
The study went on to analyze data related to smoking as a cause of death, as well as the risk of developing certain diseases as a result, and then calculated the resulting health expenditure by multiplying the average ward costs per day per disease. They found that smoking led to about 74,600 deaths yearly and approximately 506,100 smoking-related admissions to England’s hospitals between 2019 and 2020.
The calculations led to the conclusion that if 50% of all smokers were to switch to vapes, hospital admissions’ fees would drop by 13%, equating to about £518 million in England and around £53m in London alone.
Vapes typically viewed in a more negative light in the US
In contrast a 2022 US study from the University of California, San Francisco School of Nursing, said that the healthcare costs for vapers in the US add up to about $15 billion a year. “Healthcare costs attributable to e-cigarette use are already greater than our estimates of healthcare costs attributable to cigar and smokeless tobacco use,” said lead study author Yingning Wang, a health economist at the university’s Institute for Health and Aging.
For the study, Wang and her team extracted data from the 2015 to 2018 U.S. National Health Interview Survey to estimate healthcare costs, including nights in the hospital, trips to the emergency room, doctor visits and home visits. However it is not clear whether past or present smoking status was considered as one of the variables leading to any health issues in current vapers. This is an important factor to consider given that most vapers are current or former smokers trying to quit cigarettes by switching to vapes.
UK health services are certainly well aware of this. In December 2021, the National Health Service (NHS) released a guidance on steps manufacturers must follow to submit products for approval as smoking cessation tools.
Published in October by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency, the guidance went on to state that any approved vaping products, will be made available for doctors to prescribe. “This country continues to be a global leader on healthcare, whether it’s our Covid-19 vaccine rollout or our innovative public health measures reducing people’s risk of serious illness,” said Health Secretary Sajid Javid.
Javid had highlighted that making the products available via the local health provider would help tackle the disparities in smoking rates across the country, and help people to stop smoking whatever their background and financial status.
The UK is pressured to ban disposables
Meanwhile, local councils in England and Wales would like a disposable vapes’ ban set in place by next year. Earlier this year the UK government launched a consultation looking into the environmental and health impacts of vaping and a bill to ban disposables was presented to parliament on February 8th with a second reading due on March 24th. However the bill never made it to the second reading where MPs would have debated it.
However, the Local Government Association (LGA) has recently reported that about 1.3 million vapes are thrown away weekly. LGA Community Wellbeing Board Chairman Councillor David Fothergill said that the products “are fundamentally flawed in their design and inherently unsustainable products.” Due to this , he added, a total ban makes more sense than attempts to recycle them.