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DHSC launches ‘swap to stop’ scheme to cut smoking rates in England

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The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) has introduced a new ‘swap to stop’ scheme to encourage one million smokers to swap cigarettes for vapes in England.

As part of the world-first national scheme, almost 1 in 5 of all smokers in England will be provided with a vape starter kit alongside behavioural support to help them quit the habit as part of a series of new measures to help the government meet its ambition of being smokefree by 2030 – reducing smoking rates to 5% or less.

Local authorities will also be invited to take part in the scheme later this year and each will design a scheme which suits its needs, including deciding which populations to prioritise.

Health Minister Neil O’Brien announced on Tuesday (11 April) that pregnant women will be offered financial incentives to help them stop smoking. This will involve offering vouchers, alongside behavioural support, to all pregnant women who smoke by the end of next year.

The government will also consult on introducing mandatory cigarette pack inserts with positive messages and information to help people to quit smoking.

It has also announced a formation of new ‘illicit vapes enforcement squad’ to regulate and tackle the sales of illegal vapes to under 18s.

The squad is backed by £3 million of government funding and will be led by Trading Standards which will also share knowledge and intelligence across regional networks and local authorities.

It will undertake specific projects such as test purchasing in convenience stores and vape shops. It will also produce guidance to help build regulatory compliance, and will have the power to remove illegal products from shops and at our borders.

Health Minister Neil O’Brien said: “We will offer a million smokers new help to quit. We will be funding a new national ‘swap to stop’ scheme – the first of its kind in the world. We will work with councils and others to offer a million smokers across England a free vaping starter kit.

The new policies will deliver the government’s 3 aims to help more adults quit smoking, stop children and non-smokers from taking up vaping, and using vaping as a tool for established adult smokers to quit.

Cutting smoking rates reduces the number of smoking-related illnesses needing to be treated, in turn reducing the pressure on the NHS, helping to deliver on our priority to cut NHS waiting lists.

In recognition of the sharp increase, Minister O’Brien has also called for a launch for evidence on youth vaping to identify opportunities to reduce the number of children accessing and using vape products – and explore where government can go further.

In 2021 to 2022, £68 million of public health grant funded was spent on stop smoking services by local authorities and nearly 100,000 people quit with the support of a stop smoking service.

In addition, £35 million has been committed to the NHS this year so that all smokers admitted to hospital will be offered NHS-funded tobacco treatment services.

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