Why England is giving e-cigarettes to smokers

One million smokers will receive free e-cigarette kit

One million smokers will receive free e-cigarette kit

Photo: Getty Images / BBC News Brazil

One million smokers in England will receive a free e-cigarette kit as an incentive to stop using tobacco products.

Pregnant women will also receive up to 400 pounds (about R$2,500) to stop smoking. The initiatives are part of a package of measures presented by the government this Tuesday (4/11).

A public consultation will also be launched on how cigarette manufacturers should put instructions on how to quit smoking on cigarette packages.

At the same time, charities have warned that switching from cigarettes to electronic cigarettes, known as vapes, is “not nearly enough” to combat addiction.

The package of measures also includes a crackdown on illicit sales and minors.

The government has committed to reducing smoking rates in England to less than 5% by 2030.

Almost one in five smokers in England will receive a kit along with a behavioral booklet, the government said.

‘Switch to stop’

In Brazil, despite being widely used, electronic cigarettes cannot be sold

In Brazil, despite being widely used, electronic cigarettes cannot be sold

Photo: Getty Images / BBC News Brazil

The expectation is that the Minister of Health, Neil O’Brien, will say in a speech this Tuesday that the policy of free distribution of the electronic cigarette kit – dubbed “swap to stop” (“exchange to stop”, in free translation ) — is the first of its kind in the world.

“Up to two out of three lifetime smokers will die from smoking. Cigarettes are the only product on sale that can kill if used correctly,” he says.

It is estimated that 9% of women still smoke during pregnancy in England. According to the government, studies indicate that financial incentives and behavioral support can be effective.

The Department of Health and Social Assistance (DHSC), a body under the Ministry of Health, said it would provide details on how this scheme would work “in due course”.

The initiative will cost £45m and is expected to be funded by the health budget but managed by city authorities.

Deborah Arnott, executive director of Action on Smoking and Health, an NGO that raises awareness of the harms of smoking, said policies such as the one to be announced are “welcome steps in the right direction.”

However, she warned that the changes “are not enough” as the deadline for England to become “smoke free” – 2030 – approaches.

In 2019, ministers committed to ending smoking — defined as rates below 5% — by the end of the decade. In 2021, the prevalence of smoking in England was 13%, the lowest on record.

But a review of the 2030 target, published last year, showed that it will take at least another seven years for the target to be reached if further action is not taken.

Javed Khan, author of the research, championed a range of new measures, including bans on smoking in outdoor spaces such as beaches and beer gardens. He also proposed raising the minimum age to buy tobacco products to 18 years, in one year, every year, “until nobody can buy a tobacco product in this country.”

The same report recommended promoting e-cigarettes as an alternative to tobacco, but said e-cigarettes are not a “silver bullet” or “completely risk-free”.

While the government wants to encourage adult smokers to switch from “conventional” cigarettes to e-cigarettes, there are concerns about the products’ growing popularity among minors.

Figures from the NHS, the UK’s public health service, released last year revealed that 9% of secondary school students use e-cigarettes regularly or occasionally, including nearly one in five 15-year-olds.

The government earlier this week announced efforts to crack down on the illegal sale of e-cigarettes to under-18s.

A public consultation on how young people can be discouraged from taking up the habit is also being launched on Tuesday.

On its website, the NHS says e-cigarettes have become a popular means of helping users to quit smoking in the UK. “They are much less harmful than cigarettes and can help you stop smoking for good,” according to the agency.

However, the NHS warns that they are not risk-free, although they “represent a small fraction of the risk of smoking cigarettes”.

“The long-term risks of e-cigarettes are still unclear.”

Electronic cigarette in Brazil

In Brazil, despite being widely used, electronic cigarettes cannot be sold.

According to a 2009 resolution by the National Health Surveillance Agency (Anvisa), “the sale, importation and advertising of any electronic devices for smoking, including electronic cigarettes”, is prohibited.

According to the National Cancer Institute (INCA), Electronic Smoking Devices (DEFs) are not safe and contain toxic substances in addition to nicotine. In this sense, he argues that electronic cigarettes can cause a series of diseases, respiratory, such as pulmonary and cardiovascular emphysema, in addition to dermatitis and cancer.

Still according to the INCA, studies show that the levels of toxicity can be as harmful as those of traditional cigarettes, since they combine toxic substances with others that often only mask the harmful effects.

Read here a report by BBC News Brasil, from July 2022, which showed the risks of electronic cigarettes, which became ‘fashionable’ among young people and adolescents.

Last year, a survey showed that almost one in five Brazilians aged 18 to 24 used electronic cigarettes at least once in their lives, despite Anvisa’s ban.

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