Smokers to be offered free e-cigarettes at A&E to incentivise quitting

The trials hope to curb smoking habits. (Photo: Shutterstock)The trials hope to curb smoking habits. (Photo: Shutterstock)
The trials hope to curb smoking habits. (Photo: Shutterstock)

Free e-cigarettes will be given to smokers attending A&E in a new trial designed to aid quitting the habit.

Hospitals in London, Norfolk, Leicester and Edinburgh will offer the e-cigarettes and liquid supplies lasting a week to any smokers who attend their A&E departments.

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Some smokers will also be referred to local smoking-cessation services and be given medical advice.

The trials come as growing evidence supports the use of e-cigarettes as an effective method of curbing real smoking.

Public Health England has estimated that around 50,000 smokers per year quit with the help of e-cigarettes in England. 

Though not yet available as a prescription on the NHS, experts in the health service consider them less harmful than traditional tobacco cigarettes, with smoking killing an estimated 75,000 people in 2019. 

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The trials, due to begin in autumn, will see smokers given vaping starter packs and referred for further support.

They’ll be expected to fund the cost of further vaping materials themselves, and will be asked at intervals of one month, three months and six months later if they are still smoking cigarettes. 

Prof Caitlin Notley of the University of Anglia, helping to lead the study, told the BBC that A&E would be a good place to target people who might never have considered vaping.

"Electronic cigarettes mimic the experience of cigarette smoking because they are hand-held and generate a smoke-like vapour when used," she said

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"They can be an attractive option for helping people switch from smoking, even if they have tried and failed in the past."

Prof John Newton, at Public Health England, meanwhile, told the BBC:

"The best thing that a smoker can do is to stop smoking completely and the evidence shows that vaping is one of the most effective quit aids available, helping around 50,000 smokers quit a year," he said.

"Thousands more could have quit except for unfounded safety fears about e-cigarettes."