11th April 2023

Will ‘swap to stop’ actually cut smoking rates in England?

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Following the government’s announcement of its new ‘swap to stop’ scheme, lung cancer charity, Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation, questions if the initiative does enough to help go smokefree by 2030?

The new programme will see one million smokers offered a vape starter kit to encourage them to stop smoking and improve their health. They will also be provided with behavioural support whilst pregnant women will also be offered financial incentives to quit.

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

Whilst a positive step forward, Paula Chadwick, chief executive of Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation is concerned we could be creating a new epidemic of health issues:

“For us at Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation, there are still a lot of unanswered questions about the long-term impact of vaping.

“E-cigarettes are designed to be a short-term solution to help people stop smoking. They are not intended for long term use but in reality, this is what we are seeing.

“We are seeing people replace their previous smoking habit with a vaping habit, and often people will vape far more frequently than they would have smoked cigarettes. It is our fear that this new initiative could create a new problem.

In order for this initiative to be successful, there has to be accessible and adequate smoking cessation support available to everyone who is trying to quit smoking, and then stop vaping.

“Without proper support, we believe the government will not only fall sufficiently short of its smokefree target, but it will also have inadvertently created a multitude of additional health problems.”

In addition to swap to stop scheme, the government has pledged to crackdown on illicit vapes sales to prevent children from taking up the habit.

Latest figures have shown a staggering increase in vaping amongst children in recent years. In 2021, 9% of schoolchildren aged 11 to 15 years old reported vaping, up from 6% three years early.

Vaping was most popular among 15-year-old girls with more than a fifth saying they were current e-cigarette users.

“You only have to walk round any town centre or hop on a bus and you’ll see a child vaping,” continues Paula.

It is happening right in front of us. The deliberate use of child-friendly packaging and names that belong in a sweet shop are designed, in our opinion, to entice children to vape. Where are the restrictions on this form of blatant underhand marketing?

“This is an industry with many loopholes. We are constantly seeing new products enter the market, boasting ways to ‘increase nicotine into the bloodstream faster’ and at a higher concentration that the nicotine cap.

“Research has shown the level of nicotine within electronic cigarettes also widely differs (between 0.5mg – 15.4mg per 15 puffs vs 1.1mg – 1.8mg per cigarette).

“This is why more research is needed and why we should approach this new scheme with caution. By normalising vaping could fuel unwarranted usage amongst those who never needed it.”