The UK to Handout a Million Vape Starter Kits to Smokers Seeking to Quit

The Ministry of Health will be giving out the kits as part of a new anti-smoking drive which includes plans for a crackdown on illicit vape sales. 

While official UK public health groups such as Public Health England (PHE) and Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) keep assuring that there is no teen vaping epidemic while arguing in favour of the benefits of vapes for smoking cessation, the Guardian has just released an article claiming that teen vaping is a “public health catastrophe.”

“I am concerned that we are sleepwalking into a public health catastrophe with a generation of children hooked on nicotine,” said Prof. Andrew Bush, a consultant paediatric chest physician at Royal Brompton and Harefield hospitals, as quoted by the Guardian. The article went on to quote a number of parents who are voicing their concerns about their children’s vaping habits.

Meanwhile, the Consumer Choice Center (CCC) cited a 2021 Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) report, which examined vaping behaviours among youths in the UK, and found that an overwhelming majority (83%) of teens and pre-teens aged between 11 and 18, have never tried or even heard of e-cigarettes. This finding has remained consistent since 2017.

Moreover, said the ASH report, vaping was much less common among youths who had never smoked, with a large majority of the same age group being “never smokers”, at 94.1% and 87.9% having never vaped. And, 6.2% were not even aware of vaping products.

£3m allocated to tackle issues surrounding the illicit use of vapes
As part of new efforts to decrease smoking and the illicit use of vaping products among minors, Health Minister Neil O’Brien recently announced that £3m have been allocated to tackle the issues. This will include test purchases by trading standards officers in a bid to catch any retailers selling to under-18s.

Subsequently it has been revealed that one million smokers will be given free vape kits to encourage them to give up combustible tobacco products, while pregnant women will also be offered up to £400 to stop smoking as part of the campaign. Health minister O’Brien said that the “swap to stop” free vape policy is the first of its kind. He said that policies will focus on “helping people to quit” rather than imposing bans.

The UK’s tobacco control approach has always been progressive. This has led to the county’s smoking rates to drop twice as fast as the ones across the rest of Europe. As a result of this the WVA (World Vapers Alliance) named the UK as one of the tobacco harm reduction champions in the Tobacco Harm Reduction Policy Primer.

The UK’s tobacco control strategy
In 2017, the UK’s Tobacco Control Plan listed the government’s plans for a Smoke Free England, which aims to reduce smoking rates to 5% or less, and would equate to roughly one in 20 people being smokers. The finalized plan was rolled out in 2019, with a target to achieve the ‘Smoke-free’ status by 2030.

Meanwhile, a recently released report commissioned by the UK’s Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Rt Hon Sajid Javid MP, included the use of vapes for smoking cessation as a key element. The report ‘The Khan review: Making smoking obsolete’ was an independent review of the UK government’s 2030 smoke-free policies, which encourage the use of vapes for smoking cessation.

Some figures released by UK vape brand SMOKO, who surveyed 125 customers about their nicotine consumption patterns with the aim of understanding whether vapes are actually helping smokers quit indicated once again that the UK is one the right track. Amongst other things, the study found that 96% of people surveyed had smoked for more than 5 years before switching to vapes, and 72.8% said that vapes were very effective at helping them quit.