Free E-Cigarettes – What a Brilliant Idea!
I have written previously about the cock-eyed plan of bribing pregnant smokers to cease poisoning themselves with tobacco fumes. Now Mr Neil O’Brien, MP, the UK Minister for Primary Care and Public Health, has announced the latest wheeze to try and cut smoking rates. On the gov.uk website (11 April 2023) this what, with all due modesty, he is reported as saying:
We will be funding a new national ‘swap to stop’ scheme – the first of its kind in the world [and will] offer a million smokers across England a free vaping starter kit.
It may be the first of its kind in the world; let’s hope it will be the last. It shows a total lack of understanding of the smoking problem. Let me explain.
Offering smokers help to quit assumes they want to quit but find it too difficult on their own and are looking for help. The unfortunate fact, however, is that smokers, whatever they may say, don’t want to quit – not really. That’s why they smoke.
Also, vaping ain’t new – it’s been around in the UK since 2005. So why hasn’t there be a rush to swap harmful smoking for (probably) less harmful vaping? Is it because smokers don’t want to cough up around a mere £20 for a vape starter kit? And what’s going to be different even if these are offered free of charge? Ah, yes, they’ll also be offered behavioural support, whatever that is.
Mr O’Brien continues:
Smokers who join this scheme…must…commit to quit smoking with support.
This is meaningless. The real question is: when are they actually going to quit? It’s reminiscent of the even bolder ambition of the WHO which announced in 2020 their campaign to ‘support at least 100 million people as they try to give up tobacco’.
Not to worry. For those smokers who commit to quitting, ‘we will offer support to those who want to go on to quit vaping, too.’ A two-stage process, it seems, to return to the happy state of being nicotine-free.
Then he says:
The latest international research shows that smokers who use a vape every day are 3 times more likely to quit smoking, interestingly, even if they didn’t actually intend to quit smoking. (My emphasis.)
Let’s take a look at this latest research. The highly esteemed Cochrane Library, in a paper titled Electronic cigarettes for smoking cessation, concluded:
For every 100 people using nicotine e-cigarettes to stop smoking, 9 to 14 might successfully stop. (My emphasis.)
In other words, for every 100 people using nicotine e-cigarettes to stop smoking, at best 86 are likely to fail.
Mr O’Brien is also rightly exercised over the fact that
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.
So what does he propose to do about it?
[He] will launch a call for evidence on youth vaping to identify opportunities to reduce the number of children accessing and using vape products.
Apart from the difference, if any, between calling for evidence and launching a call for evidence, it’s disappointing that he seems only to want to reduce the number of children vaping rather than stopping children from vaping altogether. And even to achieve this limited aim, he wants evidence to identify opportunities to do it. And if there’s a paucity or no evidence, what then? He’ll have difficulty in identifying the opportunities? What a shame!
But then clarity of expression is evidently not Mr O’Brien’s forte. He says:
The new policies will deliver the government’s three aims to help more adults quit smoking, stop children and non-smokers from taking up vaping, and using vaping as a tool for established adult smokers to quit.
At least now he talks of stopping, rather than reducing, the number of children and non-smokers taking up vaping, but the first aim (help more adults quit smoking) is the same as the third (using vaping as a tool for smokers to quit), so there are only two aims, not three. Also, he’s talking neither about delivering us from evil, nor of deliveries from Amazon, so can’t he think of better word than ‘deliver’ in this context? How about achieve, realize, or fulfil?
Mr O’Brien’s confusion was evident even before his latest pronouncements. In a debate in the House of Commons (7 March 2023) he stated that the government ‘will be investing £35 million in the NHS this year to ensure that all smokers who are admitted to hospital are given NHS-funded tobacco treatment.’ Give them the tobacco treatment! That should cure them!
There is, however, a simple and effective solution to the tobacco problem: banning tobacco sales. Why do we hear never word about that?
Text © Gabriel Symonds