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London Tobacco Alliance endorses vapes as smoking cessation aid

June 24, 2023

Photo: iStock

The London Tobacco Alliance, a pan-London partnership for tobacco control, has launched a first-of its kind position statement for London, calling for those working with adult smokers to encourage them to swap to vaping to stop smoking.

Specifically focused on nicotine vaping as a tool for adults who wish to give up smoking tobacco, the statement also supports measures to make vaping less accessible and appealing to children.

The London Tobacco Alliance said it believes, based on the latest evidence, that alongside free behavioural support and licensed stop smoking aids, nicotine vapes play a significant role in reducing tobacco harm for adult smokers and supporting them to quit, improving public health, and helping to reduce health inequalities in London.

The group noted that smoking is still the leading cause of premature death and preventable disease in the UK, responsible for the death of one person in London every hour and more than one in four hospital cancer deaths, according to a recent analysis by Cancer Research UK.

“Nicotine vaping offers adult smokers an alternative source of nicotine which significantly reduces tobacco harms. Vaping is the most popular stop smoking aid in use in England and research shows that it poses significantly less risk than tobacco for adult smokers,” Kevin Fenton, regional director for London in the Office for Health Improvement and Disparities (OHID), said.

“As a tool to help adult smokers quit, nicotine vaping does have an important role to play in achieving London’s ambition to be a smokefree city by 2030.”

Somen Banerjee, co-chair and smoking cessation lead of the London Association of Directors of Public Health (ADPH), said: “This position statement provides a collective position on the use of nicotine vapes for London, underpinned by a live toolkit.

“The aim is to equip those who are developing policies in London around the use of nicotine vapes to help adults to stop smoking with the knowledge and confidence that their approach is rooted in systematic reviews of the latest evidence.”

The Alliance has produced a Vaping Toolkit for partners, which includes a ‘Swap to Vaping to Stop Smoking’ Communications Toolkit designed for healthcare professionals, for use by local authorities, the NHS and other organisations in internal and social media communications.

“Smoking is still the number one killer and cause of preventable disease in England. While nicotine is addictive, it’s the thousands of chemicals in tobacco that are toxic. Nicotine replacement therapy is safe to use and has been used for years to help people stop smoking. While it is never recommended that non-smokers start vaping, nicotine vaping, combined with behavioural support has proven to be an effective tool to help adult smokers quit,” Chris Streather, NHS medical director for London and London Tobacco Alliance board member said.

“Despite this, uncertainty exists which can cloud people’s understanding of the risks of vaping for adult smokers, when compared to that of smoking tobacco. This position statement seeks to address misconceptions amongst professionals working with London’s smokers.”

The position statement calls for local authorities and health professionals to promote and offer nicotine vaping as an effective smoking cessation aid for adult smokers, alongside accurate information on the benefits, in line with the latest guidance and evidence from NICE, Cochrane review, OHID and KCL and the Independent Review by Dr Javed Khan.

“As an alliance, our aim is to do things once for London. We have a shared ambition to reduce heath inequalities caused by tobacco dependence, whether this is setting effective tobacco control policies, running stop smoking campaigns, or delivering evidence-based stop smoking support at a local level and through Stop Smoking London, our digital and telephone service,” Tracy Parr, programme director, London Tobacco Alliance and Stop Smoking London said.

“Nicotine vaping as a tool for adult smokers to quit needs to form part of this London-wide approach. This has been strengthened through the government’s ‘Swap to Stop’ initiative and we support recent announcements targeting illegal sales and marketing of both nicotine and nicotine-free vape products to under 18s.

“Our position is simple: if you smoke, vaping is much safer and an effective tool to help you stop. If you don’t smoke, don’t vape. Marketing vapes to children is completely unacceptable.”