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UK government to offer one million people vapes in hopes of meeting smoke-free goal

UK government to offer one million people vapes in hopes of meeting smoke-free goal
The UK government is offering smokers vaping products in a new programme to reduce cigarette smoking. (Photo: Flickr / Lindsay Fox)

One million people in England will be offered the chance to drop their cigarettes and pick up a vape under government plans to help people quit smoking.

Described as a world first by officials, the “swap to stop” programme will see nearly one in five smokers in England provided with a vaping starter kit, as well as behavioural support to help them kick the habit.

The move comes as the government looks to cut the number of smokers in the UK to meet a target of becoming smoke free by 2030 — reducing smoking rates to 5% or less.

On Tuesday, UK health minister Neil O’Brien will outline the plans for the programme and other measures, including financial incentives to convince pregnant women to quit smoking. Doing so would help cut the risk of miscarriage and stillbirth, as well as reduce the number of babies born underweight or underdeveloped, the government said in a statement. 

Local authorities will be invited to engage in the programme later this year, with plans being specifically designed to suit their needs, including when it comes to deciding which populations to prioritise.

As well as the “swap to stop” programme, O’Brien will launch a call for evidence on vaping among children. Figures from NHS Digital published last year showed that 9% of 11- to 15-year-olds used e-cigarettes in 2021, a rise from 6% in 2018.

The government will put £3-million towards setting up an “illicit vapes enforcement squad”, led by Trading Standards, to help combat the illegal sale of vapes to children. BM/DM

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