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    Giving out free vapes in A&E ‘could help thousands of smokers quit,’ report shows

    Ali Anderson
    Ali Anderson
    April 3, 2024
    4 min read
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    Giving out free vapes to smokers in A&E could help thousands more people quit each year, a new report shows. 

    The approach could be helpful to people who are less likely to engage with official NHS stop smoking services in the UK but “have the most to gain from stopping smoking”, researchers said.

    The study was carried out between January and August two years ago in six emergency departments across the UK. The team from the University of East Anglia (UEA) offered 484 daily smokers brief advice from a dedicated adviser while at hospital, along with an e-cigarette starter kit, and a referral to stop smoking services.

    A second group of 488 patients were given written information on how to access stop smoking services, but were not referred directly.

    Smoking habits of the patients were then assessed six months later.

    Researchers asked members of the study to perform a carbon monoxide test to confirm they had given up cigarettes. They found that those referred to services and offered vape kits were 76 per cent more likely to have given up compared to the other group.

    In total 7.2 per cent of the vape kit group quit smoking compared to 4.1 per cent of the other group.

    They were also more likely to attempt to quit overall, according to the study.

    Hazel Cheeseman, deputy chief executive of public health charity Action on Smoking and Health, said that the findings "are compelling" and should be "carefully considered by those in the NHS and local government who are planning services for smokers".

    Self-reported seven-day abstinence from smoking at six months was a little over 23 per cent in the group offered more advice and vapes compared to 13 per cent in the group simply signposted to services.

    Dr Ian Pope, of UEA’s Norwich Medical School said that providing smoking cessation support in A&Es should be considered to “reach groups of the population that may not routinely engage with stop smoking services but have the most to gain from stopping smoking”.

    He added: “Swapping to e-cigarettes could save thousands of lives.

    “We believe that if this intervention was widely implemented it could result in more than 22,000 extra people quitting smoking each year.”

    Office for National Statistics figures show about 6.4 million adults in the UK were smokers in 2022.

    According to the NHS, smoking costs England about £17 billion a year due to health service costs, loss of earnings, unemployment and early death.

    Dr Pope said: “Attending the emergency department offers a valuable opportunity for people to be supported to quit smoking, which will improve their chances of recovery from whatever has brought them to hospital, and also prevent future illness.”

    Trial co-lead Professor Caitlin Notley, also of UEA’s Norwich Medical School, said vapes can “be an attractive option” to help people stop smoking.

    “We know that they are much less harmful than smoking tobacco, and that they have been shown to help smokers quit,” she added.

    About half of all people who smoke will die prematurely, losing on average 10 years of life, and for every death caused by smoking, approximately 30 more people are suffering from a smoking-related disease.

    It's not the first time vapes have been suggested for Britain's hospitals. In 2018, Public Health England recommended that hospitals should sell e-cigarettes and provide patients with vaping lounges.

    The new report follows Rishi Sunak's announcement of plans to ban disposable vapes in a bid to crack down on their use among children.

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