March 26, 2023
By Stuart Minting, Local Democracy Reporter
A council pushing to end smoking by its residents over the next seven years has emphasised it will not fund people’s use of e-cigarettes indefinitely after agreeing to supply the electric vapourisers to those wanting to quit tobacco.
North Yorkshire County Council has approved supplying e-cigarettes to smokers who choose to adopt them as a method of quitting, as part of its Living Well Smokefree programme, which is being credited with enabling a dramatic decline in smoking across the county over the last decade.
While some 18 per cent of adults in North Yorkshire smoked in 2011, by 2021 that had fallen to just 11 per cent, significantly less than the national average of 13.3 per cent.
The authority’s executive member for public health Councillor Michael Harrison said in order to meet the national ambition of a smoke-free population by 2030 access to all stop smoking aids was essential.
The move follows a pilot by the county’s Living Well Smokefree service finding a 93 per cent success rate of 144 people set a quit date with the intent of using an e-cigarette as a harm reduction intervention.
When asked if the government’s ambition to have a smoke-free population by 2030 was possible in North Yorkshire, Cllr Harrison said it would take “real action”, such as the Living Well Smokefree Service initiative.
He said: “So many health complaints that people hace are still smoking-related, so it’s still one of the biggest concerns for the NHS and public health teams.
“It is right that we use public health monies to try and improve the situation. It’s great to see that there’s lots of people stopping, but there’s too many people starting smoking.”
A public health officer’s report states although the most recent evidence suggests that e-cigarettes are significantly less harmful than smoking tobacco, they are not risk-free.
Most e-cigarettes contain nicotine, as well as other ingredients such as propylene glycol, glycerine and flavourings.
Cancer Research UK says while some potentially dangerous chemicals have been found in e-cigarettes, levels are usually low and generally far lower than in tobacco cigarettes.
The charity says exposure may be the same as people who use nicotine replacement therapy, such as patches or gum, which the county’s stop smoking service is already providing.
When asked if supplying e-cigarettes to people could lead to mixed messages, particularly following concerns that an increasing number of children were being attracted to e-cigarettes, Cllr Harrison emphasised e-cigarettes were “a short-term tool”.
He said emphasised e-cigarettes would only be given to people giving up smoking tobacco when they were on the 12-week programme, during which time the strength of the e-cigarettes would be reduced.
He said: “There’s too many people going straight from not smoking to e-cigarettes, but that’s not a good idea. E-cigarettes are only a good idea in the short-term to help someone give up tobacco.
“Public health are not endorsing e-cigarettes, which evidence says are less harmful than tobacco, but the long-term effects of e-cigarettes are still unknown.”
“We are certainly not going to fund someone’s e-cigarette habit. There is not going to be taxpayer-funded long-term e-cigarette use.”