Vape and cigarettes

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The government has called the ‘swap to stop’ scheme the first of its kind in the world

One million smokers in England will be given a vape starter kit and support as part of a government scheme to encourage them to quit cigarettes.

Almost one in five smokers will be given devices in the “swap to stop” initiative, the Department of Health & Social Care said.

Local authorities will be invited to take part in the scheme – which the government has called “the first of its kind in the world” – later this year and will be able to customise how it works to “suit its needs”, such as determining which populations to prioritise.

“Up to two out of three lifelong smokers will die from smoking. Cigarettes are the only product on sale which will kill you if used correctly,” health minister Neil O’Brien will say in a speech later today.

“The new policies will deliver the government’s three aims to help more adults quit smoking, stop children and non-smokers from taking up vaping, and using vaping as a tool for established adult smokers to quit,” he will add in his speech at Policy Exchange.

Swap to stop schemes have been piloted before: the largest was run in Salford in 2018. More than 60% of participants that stayed with the programme had quit cigarettes after four weeks.

In addition to the swap to stop scheme, pregnant women will be offered financial incentives of up to £400 to help them stop smoking.

The incentive will come in the form of vouchers offered to all pregnant women who smoke by the end of next year.

The government will also consult on introducing mandatory cigarette pack inserts with positive messages and information to help people quit smoking.

It hopes the moves will help meet its ambition of England being “smoke-free” by 2030 – with smoking rates reduced to 5% or less.

More than five million people in England smoke tobacco, which remains the single biggest cause of preventable illness and death. According to latest data, up to two out of three lifelong smokers will die from smoking and one in four deaths from all cancers are estimated to be from smoking.

The policies were welcomed by vaping and retailer trade associations.

“The Independent British Vape Trade Association (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,” said IBVTA CEO Gillian Golden.

John Dunne, Director General of the UK Vaping Industry Association (UKVIA), said: ”It clearly represents a watershed moment for the vaping category as the government’s recognition of vaping’s pivotal role in making smoking obselete, is turned into nationwide action.” 

Association of Convenience Stores CEO James Lowman said: “We strongly welcome this course of action from government, harnessing the potential for vaping to accelerate the decline in smoking rates, and it’s encouraging that the government are committing new resource and some innovative approaches to make this happen.

“We are encouraged by ministers recognising the need to ensure the vaping market operates properly, which means only legal product reaches retailers and consumers, and only adults can buy these products. The stronger focus on enforcement, backed by greater resources at a local level, is the right way to achieve this.

“Our members will welcome and embrace more enforcement activity, and our guidance on recognising legal products and implementing the widely recognised and robust Challenge 25 policy to avoid underage sales is freely available for all retailers to use.

“We will continue to work with the Department of Health & Social Care and Trading Standards departments to make this approach work.”