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Southend on course to hit smoke-free target with vape promotion

July 18, 2023

Southend Pier entrance, April 17 2021. (Photo: iStock)

By Christine Sexton, Local Democracy Reporter

Southend-on-Sea could become the first area in the East of England to achieve the smoke-free target by 2030, a health boss has revealed.

The city’s director of public health, Krishna Ramkhelawon¸ said consistent figures for helping people quit smoking are behind the belief that Southend is on target to achieve the target where under 5 per cent of people are smokers.

Speaking at a people scrutiny committee meeting last week, Mr Ramkhelawon said he had been advised by the National Knowledge and Improvement Services, part of the Office of Health Improvement and Disparities, the city could be the first to achieve the target.

“The reason why they believe that is our success rate remains quite high for the number that we are getting through the service. It has remained over 40 per cent, where most places are dropping to 30 per cent in terms of quit rate,” he said.

“The approach we have taken since 2018 was to move people onto vaping, the reason being that the comparative data we had in 2017 was that using tobacco was more likely to give you other forms of diseases than vaping could.”

Vaping itself has since come under the spotlight with some raising concerns it may also be harmful, especially to young people.

The Local Government Association (LGA), which represents councils in England and Wales, has recently urged the government to ban the sale and manufacture of single use vapes by 2024, on environmental and health grounds.

Ramkhelawon added: “There was nothing to suggest what vaping could do and that’s the piece of work that’s ongoing. We introduced in 2019 the scheme where we encouraged people to go for vaping and quit smoking and I think that’s the main reason why we are seeing a high rate of tobacco quitters.

“The challenge for vaping, I think the jury is still out.”

The city’s stop smoking service includes 29 GPs and 11 pharmacists signed up to provide 12 weeks of support to quitters, with the latter offering a walk-in service.

Four vape shops in the city are offering a Vape Swap Smoking Service which includes a free starter kit. This includes a vape device, an electrical plug for vape device charging, e-liquid/juice and safety leaflet. Anyone using this service has access to free Nicotine Replacement Therapy patches for up to 12 weeks funded by the Public Health Grant.