We must strike the right balance in our approach to a smoke-free future
Every smoker's journey is unique. Their reasons for starting, their challenges in quitting, and their ultimate quitting methods all vary. For nearly 40 years, I enjoyed almost every cigarette I had.
Despite continuous prodding from loved ones, quitting seemed out of reach.
As such, my surprise was palpable when I came across heated tobacco on a wager that it might actually work to help me quit cigarettes. Life as an MP can be incredibly fast paced and stressful, but I can safely say I have had my final regular cigarette. Now, having lost the wager, I've adopted heated tobacco daily.
Since, my chronic smoker’s cough has vanished, and my lung capacity has noticeably improved – immeasurably improving my day-to-day quality of life. Whilst heated tobacco has worked brilliantly for me, I know that what works for me won’t necessarily work for every smoker. Due to this, I believe every individual looking to quit should be given support and be made aware of the full range of less harmful alternatives that are now available as, like I did, the government quite rightly aims for England to go smokefree by 2030.
The growing research and data shows that it is clear that individuals employ various techniques and aids to quit smoking: nicotine patches, gum, or the sheer will of cold turkey. For me, heated tobacco has been the perfect harm reduction tool. Yet, a significant number lean towards vaping. So, with a proposed potential disposable vape ban on the horizon, what consequences would this have?
Whilst any alternative is superior to the traditional cigarette, we now have around 3.3 million vapers in the UK. For me, the slight catch with vaping is that, per Action on Smoking and Health (ASH), 35% of vapers still smoke cigarettes. This suggests that while they can be successful, vapes are often dual-purpose and used where smoking isn't permissible and vice versa. This is why it so important that the full range of less harmful alternatives are accessible to smokers so they can pick what works best for them and prevent the dual usage, which is more prevalent with vapes.
Furthermore, I have become greatly apprehensive about youngsters accessing vape products. As mentioned, vapes can be a very successful alternative for smokers when quitting cigarettes, but they should not be used by young people – or indeed any non-smokers. There have been many examples of irresponsible retailers selling to underage non-smokers and this has to be stamped out immediately. Undoubtedly the proposed ban on those brightly coloured disposables will go a long way to achieving this, but we must also ensure that when we look to address the issue of youth vaping, we do not make it harder for smokers to access a range of alternatives to find what works for them. A balance must be struck, but we cannot go on with millions of children getting hooked on candy flavoured nicotine.
For me personally, this is where less harmful alternative products such as nicotine pouches and heated tobacco come into their own. They are simply not enticing for young non-smokers. They do not come in sugary sweet flavours, nor do they come in cartoonish bright colours. They are purpose built for adult smokers who want to make that crucial step of quitting cigarettes, just like I did.
Overall, I have been really encouraged by the Government’s harm reduction approach to smoking. If I can go smokefree, maybe we can secure England’s smokefree 2030 future.
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