The future of smoking in the UK

The UK government’s war against smoking is decades old, but there is only one crucial target you need to know about today: the government wants England to be smoke-free by 2030 (meaning only 5% of people smoke).

To achieve this ambitious target, the government has outlined critical recommendations that point to the future of smoking and vaping.

One surprising recommendation is vaping is an effective tool for helping people quit smoking tobacco. This is surprising because of concerns over counterfeits and a lack of research into vapors. “We know vapes are not a ‘silver bullet’ nor are they entirely risk-free, but the alternative is far worse,” says the Office for Health Improvement & Disparities.

Here are the recommended actions that affect smokers:

Increasing the age of sale

The most controversial recommendation is increasing the age of sale from 18 by one year every year until no one can buy a tobacco product in this country.

This means that after five years, the legal age for buying tobacco will be 23, rising to 28 after ten years, and so forth.

While many smokers would call this regressive, it prioritises cutting smoking levels in young people, helping reduce tobacco uptake.

However, increasing the age of sale for tobacco products will not apply to vapes, which are a valuable tool for a smoke-free Britain.

Promote vaping

Vaping is a grey area in the medical field because while it is healthier than smoking tobacco, it isn’t healthy per se.

Tobacco contains tar and carbon monoxide – vapes contain neither of these substances – but they contain chemicals. These chemicals are not found in quantities that are harmful to health, but there is the risk of counterfeits.

Counterfeit vapes are unregulated and sometimes contain butane and other toxins that can kill, so the industry needs regulation.

The report recommends accelerating the path to prescribed vapes and providing free Swap to Stop packs in deprived communities.

NHS quitting persistence

GPs and doctors have told people for decades that smoking is terrible and have offered people stop-smoking aids to help them quit.

Under new plans, the NHS will do more to offer smokers advice and support to quit, with reminders and recommendations at every possible interaction.

Access to clinical support and coping therapies will be increased, and people from deprived communities will have priority support.

Investments include £15 million per year to support pregnant women to quit smoking in all parts of the country, and £8 million for regional and local prioritisation of stop-smoking interventions through ICS (Integrated care system) leadership.

Summing up

The future of tobacco smoking in the UK is simple – the government wants less than 5% of the population to smoke by 2030 (making it ‘smoke-free’).

The current adult smoker percentage is around 14%, so there needs to be high-level intervention to achieve the government’s ambitious targets.

On the other hand, vaping is set to be prescribed, more highly regulated, and promoted as an effective tool for quitting tobacco smoking.

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