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UK government announces new scheme to tackle British smoking rates for good

By Grace Lynk 16th June 2023 3 Mins


The new ‘Swap to stop’ scheme proposed by Neil O’Brien, British Health Minister, will provide one million free vapes to smokers in England who are looking to quit for good.

Announced on April 11th, the scheme will target homeless centres and housing providers in an aim to transform Britain into a smoke-free country with rates below five percent by 2030.

Current enforcement measures will also be amped to discourage youth smoking, after a sharp increase in youth vaping, particularly disposables, with the health minister aiming to review regulatory compliance in retailers.

Not only is this the first national plan of its kind, but it’s also a world-first scheme, with local trials in Southampton, Sheffield, Bath and Plymouth having already been effective for smokers.

In his speech, O’Brien said:

“Smokers who join this scheme, which will run initially over the next two years, must join on one condition…they commit to quit smoking with support. ”

Around 95 percent of smokers will relapse within the first year of quitting without the correct support.

Policymakers are hoping the free vape kits will aim to keep this percentage at an all-time low.

Now the health minister has stressed the importance of smokers steering clear of relapsing, saying:

“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. ”

Although the focus is predominantly on youth vaping, pregnant women will also benefit from this scheme, with financial incentives being offered to those expecting children.

O’Brien said:

“In trials, women receiving financial incentives are more than twice as likely to quit. ”

Financial incentive schemes like this one have proven incredibly effective in the fight against smoking, with Greater Manchester seeing the biggest decline in maternal smoking rates over the last two years.

The first of these projects will start in the North East, with local councils in Northumberland, Gateshead, South Tyneside and Hartlepool agreeing to join ‘swap to stop’.

More deprived areas in the UK are the primary focus of this scheme due to the high death rates related to smoking.

O’Brien said:

“Poorer parts of the country going smokefree could mean far more money circulating in the local economy. ”

Reducing smoking rates aims to not only boost productivity and economic growth in poorer areas, but also to improve health and reduce the overwhelming burden currently on the NHS.

Responding to the government’s ‘Swap to stop’ scheme, John Dunne, Director General of the UK Vaping Industry Association (UKVIA) said:

“We are delighted to learn of this initiative. It clearly represents a watershed moment for the vaping category as the government’s recognition of vaping’s pivotal role in making smoking obsolete, is turned into nationwide action.”

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Grace Lynk