E-cigarette starter packs should be made available to smokers for free to encourage them to quit, a joint report by two leading anti-tobacco groups has said.
Many Ways Forward: stop smoking services and tobacco control work in English local authorities was co-authored by Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) and Cancer Research UK (CRUK). It recommends: “Local authorities which do not currently provide e-cigarette starter packs as part of their cessation offer should consider doing so to give local smokers the best possible chance to quit”.
Only 11 per cent of local authorities currently provide free e-cigarette starter kits in England.
The recommendation came alongside data showing the impact of swingeing cuts to local authority budgets and the “stark” inequality between regions. Spending in England on stop smoking services has declined by nearly £8 million between 2017-18 and 2018-19, equating to 9.2 per cent. While London’s budget remained mostly untouched, the West Midlands saw a decline of 17.6 per cent.
One respondent to the report said this decline (and future cuts) risked the provision of services in many areas.
“Potential removal of the Public Health ring-fenced grant could mean tobacco funding is severely decreased beyond 2020. Even if this is not the case local authority budgets are under extreme pressure and this could impact public health budgets in the near future where difficult decisions will have to be made”
Meanwhile, another respondent identified the impact budget cuts are having on tobacco control: “Trading standards team has been eroded, very little work happening around tobacco.”
With e-cigarettes proving a low cost, popular and effective method of smoking cessation, this report underlines the industry’s long-term role in the UK’s aim to become smoke free by 2030.