A new study by the University of East Anglia has found that giving out ‘vape starter kit vouchers’ on the NHS could help even hardened smokers quit.
In the recent study, researchers worked with GPs and the ‘NHS stop smoking service’, commissioned locally by Public Health at Norfolk County Council, to set up a pilot ‘vape shop voucher’ scheme (worth £25 each) to help patients who had tried but failed to stub it out in the past.
An evaluation of the scheme, funded by Norfolk County Council, showed it was a big success – with 42 per cent of the entrenched smokers who were referred to it and redeemed their vape voucher having quit within a month.
After the success of the pilot, the scheme has been rolled out across Norfolk and the research team hope it could be rolled out nationally to help more smokers quit.
Lead researcher and addiction expert Prof Caitlin Notley, from the UEA’s Norwich Medical School, said: “Research shows that vaping is an effective way of quitting smoking, compared to nicotine replacement therapies like patches and gum. E-cigarettes or vapes are now the most popular way of stopping smoking.
“Our research has previously shown that they may be particularly helpful in helping people to not only quit, but to stay quit for good.
“We wanted to see whether GPs giving out vape shop vouchers, alongside support from the stop smoking service, can help smokers quit. We particularly wanted to target vulnerable and disadvantaged smokers who had failed to quit smoking by other means,” she added.
Dr Louise Smith, Norfolk’s director of Public Health, welcomed the collaboration with UEA on this council-led initiative to further develop services to support people to quit smoking.
The pilot scheme saw 668 participants referred to receive a vape shop voucher that could be redeemed for an initial starter kit from a local vape shop. Of these, 340 went on to redeem their voucher.
Prof Notley said: “This innovative approach saw the NHS local stop smoking service, vape retailers and researchers working together, recognising that other forms of smoking cessation support do not work for everyone.
“This scheme enabled 42 per cent of entrenched smokers who redeemed a voucher to have successfully quit smoking at four weeks. This is especially important because it helped those who have tried and failed to quit smoking many times to move away from tobacco.
“Overall, the project was well received by smokers as it offered an affordable route into vaping. GPs supported the scheme and appreciated being able to offer an alternative to entrenched smokers,” she added.
The study was commissioned by Norfolk County Council and led by UEA, who worked in collaboration with the public health team and the local stop smoking service – Smokefree Norfolk.