Push to give smokers vape kits might backfire, doctor claims

Fears over Government’s vaping push to give smokers free e-cig ‘starter kits’ as doctors warn gadgets aren’t risk-free and true dangers ‘won’t come to light for 50 years’

  • Drs say vapes’ long term health impact isn’t known and new scheme won’t work
  • Read more: Calls to ban menthol vapes as study finds flavor is toxic to the lungs

The Government’s vaping push could see smokers trade one addiction for another and suffer health problems down the line, a doctor warned today.  

A million smokers are set to be offered vape ‘starter kits’ in a world-first policy aimed at making England smoke-free.

The free kits are set to be offered to almost one in five of all smokers in England at an estimated cost of £45million over two years. 

Despite a torrent of evidence underlying the health risks of vaping and the long-term risks still being unknown, the cheap gadgets are broadly accepted as being far safer than traditional cigarettes.

But GP Dr Monah Mansoori argued vaping isn’t ‘risk free’ and she had concerns about the new scheme. 

Despite a torrent of evidence on the health risks of vaping, the free kits are set to be offered to almost one in five of all smokers in England (stock image)

Professor Martin McKee, an expert in public health from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine is another health expert opposing the new scheme 

‘Certainly, we don’t know what’s going to happen 30, 40, 50 years down the line,’ she told Sky News.

She added that the new swap scheme could also see smokers just trade one addiction for another without the right support. 

‘I do feel concerned slightly about this news because I think that you’re potentially stepping down to something you may never be able to come off at all,’ she said. 

‘Most respiratory consultants and doctors don’t really like vaping because we are seeing lung damage caused by vaping and e-cigarettes… even in the short term.’ 

The new policy, announced this morning as part of a raft of anti-tobacco measures from the Government, will see the vaping devices handed out to smokers.

E-cigarettes allow users to inhale nicotine in a vapour rather than smoke. They work by heating liquid that contains nicotine and flavourings.

This doesn’t burn tobacco or produce tar or carbon monoxide like with traditional cigarettes, and is and why they are deemed healthier than smoking.

They can come as vape pens — shaped like a small tube with a tank to store e-liquid and batteries — or pod systems that are rechargeable, resembling USB sticks. They can cost in the region of £20-£30.

While the NHS has long advised vaping can help smokers quit, the health service has never given people the equipment to start doing it.

But some critics argue vaping is not particularly effective in helping people give up smoking.

Professor Martin McKee, an expert in public health from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said: ‘Given the pressure the NHS is facing, one does wonder if this is a good use of resources given that a substantial increase in tobacco taxes would be more effective.

‘E-cigarettes have only ever been shown to help people quit if they are part of a supervised, time-limited package of behavioural support – and even then they are not especially good.

Read more: Calls to ban menthol vapes grow as study finds mint flavors are far more toxic to the lungs 

‘They don’t increase quitting rates that much, and when people do use them to quit they are more likely to relapse than those who didn’t use them.

‘We need to focus on plain packaging, a ban on attractive e-liquid flavours, and a halt to advertising of vape products.’

Other parts of the new smoking crackdown include offering pregnant women up to £400 in vouchers to stop smoking, and a consultation on introducing mandatory advice about quitting smoking on cigarette packs.

The measures are designed to help the Government meet its target of being smoke-free by 2030 – which means reducing smoking rates to 5 per cent or less.

Health minister Neil O’Brien, who will officially launch the schemes in a speech today is expected to say: ‘Up to two out of three lifelong smokers will die from smoking.

‘Cigarettes are the only product on sale which will kill you if used correctly.

‘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.’

More than 3million people in England are believed to vape with health experts and the NHS stating the devices are much safer than smoking.

Supporters of vaping point to UK research estimating that in 2017, e-cigarettes helped more than 50,000 smokers in England to quit but some brands’ colourful packaging and sweet flavours have been blamed for a rise in vaping in children (stock image)

Vape kits being offered to smokers is part of raft of new smoking cessation policies announced by Government with another being offering pregnant women up to £400 in vouchers to kick the habit (stock image) 

Read more: Inside Britain’s child vaping epidemic: Our horrifying investigation exposes predatory tactics of sweet shops selling e-cigs, vibrant ‘dupes’ made to resemble Skittles and Jolly Ranchers… and the kids left scarred for life 

MailOnline discovered dupe vapes mimicking Chupa Chups, Skittles, Jolly Rancher, Rubicon and Calypso (pictured), with near-identical branding to the popular sweets and drinks in other stores along Oxford Street 

Supporters of vaping point to British research estimating that in 2017 e-cigarettes helped more than 50,000 smokers in England to quit.

But the World Health Federation has warned that multiple studies casting doubt on the use of e-cigarettes as a way to quit smoking, as people often just end up both smoking and vaping.

And the World Health Organization has said e-cigarettes are ‘undoubtedly harmful’.

Some of the liquids used to flavour e-cigarettes have been linked in rare cases to ‘popcorn lung’ – a severe health problem which in extreme cases can require a lung transplant.

The starter kits will offer smokers a choice of products, strengths and flavours, and they will get support to quit tobacco at the same time .

It is understood people will not be prescribed vaping starter kits by their GPs, but can request them from community health centres or stop-smoking services.

The stop to swap scheme is estimated by officials to cost around £45million over two years.

Officials say 9 per cent of women still smoke during pregnancy in England and hope a financial incentive alongside behavioural support will get all of them to stop by the end of the year.

Deborah Arnott, chief executive of the Action on Smoking and Health campaign, said: ‘Vapes increase smokers’ chances of successfully quitting, as do vouchers for pregnant smokers, so these are welcome steps in the right direction, but they are nowhere near sufficient.’

The Government is also set to announce a crackdown on underage and illicit vape sales to stop children taking up the habit.

NHS Digital data shows the number of children who are current vapers has soared in recent years, jumping from 6 per cent in 2018 to 9 per cent in 2021

Experts have stressed their concern at children not being fully aware of the contents of e-cigarettes, with many so anxious for their next ‘fix’ they are begging teachers to let them vape at school

Concerns have been growing that some vape manufactures are targeting their products to children using colourful branding and candy flavours.

Inside Britain’s child vaping epidemic: Our horrifying investigation exposes predatory tactics of sweet shops selling e-cigs, vibrant ‘dupes’ made to resemble Skittles and Jolly Ranchers… and the kids left scarred for life 

But despite this the UK’s advertising watchdog has sensationally claimed the devices are not targeted at kids despite being marketed the same way as sweets.  

NHS figures for 2021 showed that 9 per cent of 11 to 15-year-old children used e-cigarettes, up from 6 per cent in 2018.

Some £3million of funding will be used for an ‘illicit vapes enforcement squad’.

But, despite health chiefs insisting vaping is safer than smoking, it is not risk-free. 

E-cigarettes still contain harmful toxins, according to a study by researchers at the Medical University of Silesia in Poland.

And their long-term effect on health remains a mystery, with some doctors fearing a wave of lung disease and even cancer in the coming decades.

Experts are also concerned the high nicotine content might increase blood pressure and cause other heart problems.

Britain’s best-selling vape, which is known to be popular with children, was pulled from stores after the Mail revealed it was 50 per cent over the legal nicotine limit.

Elf Bar withdrew its 600 product – which accounted for two-thirds of disposable vapes bought in the UK – after the healthcare watchdog intervened.

Despite it being illegal to sell e-cigarettes to under-18s, their use among kids has been surging for years. 

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