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UncategorizedA Smoke-Free England by 2030: Is It a Realistic Goal?

A Smoke-Free England by 2030: Is It a Realistic Goal?

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In 2019, the United Kingdom Parliament put forth a mandate that England should be virtually smoke free – that is, the smoking rate should be decreased to 5 percent or less – by 2030. Similarly, Scotland has a target date of 2034, while Northern Ireland and Wales have yet to set target dates. Although the smoking rate in England has dropped drastically over the past few decades – as it has in most of the rest of the world – population growth has meant that the total number of smokers hasn’t decreased nearly enough for the decline in smoking rates to have a major impact on the burden that smokers place on the United Kingdom’s healthcare system.

Today, there are around 7 million smokers in the United Kingdom. In England, smoking causes about 16 percent of all deaths. That’s an appalling number. Between the lost productivity of sick smokers and the cost of caring for those people, smokers in the United Kingdom cause a total economic burden of about $12.6 billion per year. Since the early 1990s, our country has cut its smoking rate in half. However, our population has grown by about 11 million during that same time span. By 2030, our population will have grown by another 2.2 million.

In order to meet the goal of becoming smoke free by 2030, smoking rates will need to decrease much more rapidly than they currently are. So, is that realistic? These are some of the things that the government and our small businesses are doing to help make smoking a thing of the past.

Photo by Lex Guerra on Unsplash

Encouraging Smokers to Switch to Vaping

Encouraging Britain’s smokers to switch to vaping products from companies like Simply ELiquid is the only way that we can realistically get smoking rates to decline from their present levels to under 5 percent by 2030. Traditional smoking cessation products have been around for decades, and it’s well known that they don’t work for most smokers who want to quit. It’s proven that nicotine replacement gives you a better chance to quit than trying to quit by will power alone, but the chance to quit with nicotine replacement still isn’t good because nicotine doesn’t absorb quickly enough through the oral route; it isn’t as satisfying as smoking.

Vaping solves the problems inherent in traditional nicotine replacement because the nicotine is absorbed through the lungs. When someone vapes, satisfaction occurs as quickly as it would during smoking. Vaping also has the added benefit of reproducing the “throat hit” of smoking, and it allows the user to enjoy a wide variety of different flavours. Public Health England estimates that vaping is at least 95 percent less harmful than smoking.

Right now, the biggest thing hampering the uptake of vaping by Britain’s smokers is a lung illness – caused by the use of illegal cannabis products – that affected more than 2,000 patients in the United States in 2019. The illness resulted in severe lung damage for many patients and caused a few deaths. It was caused by Vitamin E acetate, an ingredient added to liquid THC vape cartridges to make the THC oil in those cartridges look more potent than it actually was. Vitamin E acetate isn’t present in any legal nicotine vaping product. When the United States media reported on the lung illness, though, the reports often only used the term “vaping” without elaborating on the fact that illegal THC vaping cartridges – not legal nicotine e-liquids – were making people sick.

Since the United States is the hub from which much of the world’s news flows, the lung illness caused many people to become afraid of nicotine vaping. Public Health England has worked hard to correct that misconception. Currently, though, two out of three adults in England are unaware that vaping is less harmful than smoking. It’ll take much stronger public health messaging to ensure that all smokers in Britain understand the facts.

Reducing the Appeal of Cigarettes

While our country’s small businesses and public health authorities work to help smokers understand the benefits of vaping for tobacco harm reduction, our government is also working to reduce the appeal of cigarettes. By making cigarettes less appealing now, the hope is that existing smokers will look for alternatives that are more appealing and more affordable – such as vaping – while children who might have otherwise started smoking will decide not to use nicotine at all.

These are some of the changes that our government has made – or is planning to make – to reduce the appeal of cigarettes and encourage smokers to quit.

  • Our nation follows the rules set forth in the European Union Tobacco Products Directive, which was originally implemented when we were still an EU member state. The most recent revision of the TPD includes a ban on tobacco products with characterising flavours, including menthol. It’s well known that menthol enhances the addictiveness of cigarettes by masking the harshness of the smoke and allowing people to inhale more deeply. All flavours – including menthol – are still allowed in vaping products, though, giving menthol cigarette smokers a perfect reason to transition from smoking to vaping.
  • The UK implemented a plain packaging policy for cigarettes in 2016. Cigarettes can no longer be sold in packages with appealing imagery and colours. Instead, they’re now sold in drab dark brown packages with graphic health warnings. Studies suggest that by removing the appealing imagery that differentiates the various cigarette brands, today’s children will be much less likely to be drawn to cigarettes and will choose not to use nicotine products instead.
  • The government will need to continue working hard to ensure that people throughout the United Kingdom have access to the products and support that they need to quit smoking. E-cigarettes are unfortunately not available from NHS at this time – but because studies have shown a positive correlation between vaping and quitting smoking, it’s possible that free vaping products will be available here in the future. In the meantime, the government will need to focus its efforts on the underprivileged communities where smoking is most prevalent. It is likely that the government will attempt to force the tobacco companies to defray those costs.

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