As a measure to promote smoking cessation, one million tobacco users will receive a complimentary vaping starter kit.
In addition, pregnant women will be offered up to £400 to quit smoking as part of a range of measures to be announced by the government on Tuesday in England.
The government plans to launch a consultation on requiring cigarette manufacturers to include advice on quitting smoking in their packaging.
The government aims to decrease smoking rates in England to below 5% by 2030 and plans to enforce stricter regulations on underage and illegal sales of vaping products.
Nearly 20% of smokers in England will be provided with a kit and behavioral support to encourage smoking cessation, according to the government.
Health Minister Neil O’Brien is expected to announce the “swap to stop” policy, which offers free vaping, as the world’s first of its kind in a speech on Tuesday.
“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,” he will say.
In England, it is believed that 9% of pregnant women continue to smoke, and the government claims that financial incentives and behavioral support, based on local trials, can be an effective way to address this.
The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) will provide further information on the implementation of this program at a later date. Local authorities are being asked to participate in the first phase of the complimentary vape policy, with a larger nationwide program set to be rolled out over the next two years.
Officials anticipate that the initiative will cost roughly £45 million, which will be funded by the health department’s budget but administered by local authorities.
According to Deborah Arnott, CEO of the Action on Smoking and Health campaign, while the policy announcements are a positive step, they are not sufficient as England’s target date of becoming “smoke free” by 2030 approaches.
In 2019, the government promised to eliminate smoking, defined as achieving rates below 5%, by the conclusion of the decade. As of 2021, the smoking prevalence in England has decreased to a record low of 13%.
However, a review of the 2030 objective published last year cautioned that it would not be met without additional efforts, which would result in a delay of at least seven years.
Dr. Javed Khan, the review’s author, recommended a variety of new initiatives, including a prohibition on smoking in outdoor locations like beaches and beer gardens.
He also proposed increasing the age of sale from 18, by one year, every year, “until no one can buy a tobacco product in this country”.
According to the same report, promoting vaping as an alternative to tobacco was suggested, but it was emphasized that e-cigarettes are not a completely risk-free solution or a “magic cure”. While the government aims to encourage adult smokers to switch from cigarettes to vaping, there are concerns about the growing popularity of these products among minors.
Recent NHS data indicates that 9% of secondary school students regularly or occasionally use e-cigarettes, including almost one in five 15-year-olds. Earlier this week, the government revealed plans to create a new enforcement team to tackle illegal sales of vapes to those under the age of 18.
Furthermore, on Tuesday, a comprehensive consultation will be launched to determine how young people can be discouraged from taking up vaping.