The UK vision is clear: it wants the country to be smokefree by 2030. To achieve this, the Government will spend €60 million on a programme aimed at helping a million people to stop smoking or, at least, to do so progressively. Initially, converting to e-cigarettes will be encouraged, since vaping is considered a lesser evil for adults in the United Kingdom. However, the health authorities do not consider vaping in itself to be advisable.
Thus, the programme consists of offering vapers to smokers as a first step towards completely stopping smoking; even though the health authorities consider that vaping is not beneficial for health either. A fifth of British smokers will be encouraged to switch from conventional cigarettes to e-cigarettes, while also being offered the chance to have an expert vaping starter kit. The British government acknowledges that e-cigarettes can be harmful, but that they may be helpful in reducing tobacco addiction.
In addition, the programme will offer pregnant smokers, who account for 9% of all pregnant women in the UK, a financial incentive of up to €500. From now on, it will also be mandatory for tobacco packaging to contain instructions and advice on how to quit this habit.
Neil O'Brien, Under-Secretary of State for Primary Care and Public Health in the UK, explained that "the plan is to find a balance between making sure children don’t take up vaping while, at the same time, offering e-cigarettes as an alternative for adults to stop smoking.” "Up to 2 out of 3 lifelong smokers will die from smoking; the single biggest cause of preventable illness and death in England," he added.
The measures adopted have been received well and are understood as a step in the right direction, but are still inadequate, according to experts. This programme is a continuation of a plan launched in 2021, with the aim of the UK becoming a smokefree country by 2030. However, a study by Cancer Research UK indicates that it is highly unlikely that this goal will be reached before the year 2039.
The danger of electronic cigarettes
The UK defends electronic cigarettes as a means to help achieving a complete stop to smoking. It also recognises the risks involved, especially for young people. In fact, several studies point to its growing popularity among children between the ages of 11 and 17. Exposure of adolescents to the chemicals in e-cigarettes has been clearly shown to have potentially harmful effects, for which long-term data are not yet available.
Information documented by:
Dr. Jacobo Sellarés, Head of Smoking at the Clinical Respiratory Institute (ICR)