UK’s “Swap to Stop” Scheme Targets 1 Million Vapers

The UK government has continued its shocking sensible approach to reducing smoking rates by announcing an innovative new scheme. The “Swap to Stop” program will offer 1 million smokers a vaping starter kit to help the UK reach its ambitious “smoke-free” targets by 2030.

What is the “Swap to Stop” scheme?  

Swap to Stop” is a new government-led scheme that will offer 1 million smokers a vaping starter kit to help them stop smoking cigarettes. 

Under the initiative, the government will work with local councils to distribute e-cigarettes to smokers. 

While the government has not stated the exact dates for when it will start, they have said it will be later in 2023. 

These measures were primarily influenced by Dr Javed Khan’s review from 2022. The paper set forth some very pragmatic steps that the UK needs to take to hit its “smoke-free” targets, including promoting vaping and offering more NHS support to smokers.

The scheme is the brainchild of The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC). Neil O’Brien, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Primary Care and Public Health, announced the progressive program in April by saying, “Up to 2 out of 3 lifelong smokers will die from smoking. Cigarettes are the only product on sale which will kill you if used correctly.”

The scheme is the first of its kind in the world. The government’s ambitious “smoke-free” target of reducing smoking prevalence rates to 5% by 2030 will require some out-of-the-box thinking. And this strategy is a step in the right direction. 

O’Brien announced a few other parts of the program, which will include:

  • Offering pregnant women up to £400 to quit smoking
  • Cracking down on the sale of elicit vapes that exceed TPD regulations
  • A consultation on introducing mandatory inserts in cigarette packages that encourage people to quit.

All in all, it’s not a bad mix of measures that could actually make an impact. Per the government press release, the cash incentive for pregnant women was successful during local pilots. 

How “Swap to Stop” could help the NHS

The NHS is under pressure. A series of high-profile strikes seems to have led to some agreement, although not all unions are on board. However, the DHSC has been quietly plugging away and trying to do some work that will be effective.

While schemes like these will take time to bear fruit, they are designed to reduce pressure on the NHS. Countless clinical trials and evidence reviews have shown that vaping is more effective than other nicotine replacement therapies (NRTs) like gum and patches.

Studies suggest that around 10% of people who try vaping give up smoking cigarettes. While that figure might not jump out as extremely high, it underlines just how difficult it is to stop the habit.

Giving out free vaping starter kits to 1 million people could translate into 100,000 smokers achieving better health outcomes. Reducing smokers in the country by that number would greatly boost the NHS. Per Action on Smoking:

“Smokers’ need for health and social care at a younger age than non-smokers also creates costs, with smoking costing the NHS an additional £2.4bn and a further £1.2bn in social care costs. This includes the cost of care provided in the home and, for the first time, residential care costs.”

Compared to these outgoings, a small investment of £45m could reap significant rewards over the coming years.

Final thoughts

With the likelihood of reaching smoke-free 2030 targets pretty remote, the government has introduced a new scheme that will target 1 million UK smokers. The program will involve handing out free e-cigarette kits to smokers to encourage them to try a healthier harm-reduction alternative.   

Support from the NHS and local authorities is essential. Quit rate statistics from ​​Rotherham, Barnsley, and Warrington bear out this thesis.

Evidence suggests that vaping is a proven smoking cessation tool. So we should welcome the government’s use of up-to-date data to inform these policies. UK vapers are in an enviable position when compared with other countries. We can’t let this situation slip.