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Seizing the opportunity: E-cigarettes and Stop Smoking Services - linking the most popular with the most effective

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Our latest e-cigarette evidence review, authored by leading academics in the tobacco control field, found that e-cigarettes (ECs):

  • appear far less harmful than smoking cigarettes
  • are the most popular quit aid
  • have a role to play in reducing smoking rates

Use has increased in recent years and EC have become the most popular stop smoking aid in England, with the majority of users now ex-smokers having made the switch completely.

We know that face-to-face support from a local stop smoking service (LSSS) offers smokers the most effective way to quit. Of the smokers who combine the two (the most popular and most effective) around two thirds quit successfully.

LSSS should seize this opportunity, ensuring their services are truly e-cigarette friendly and are maximising the benefits that e-cigarettes can offer many smokers to help them stop for good.

Note: Unlicensed Nicotine Containing Product (U NCP) are usually e-cigarettes

E-cigarettes and local stop smoking services

However, as highlighted in the review, the numbers of smokers combining ECs and support from LSSS are currently low. Just 4% of all people using LSSS in 2016/17 also used an EC.

LSSS should be open and welcoming to anyone who wants to use an EC as a quit aid, and this presents an excellent opportunity for services to work with more smokers.

We know that, alongside behavioural support and the offer of stop smoking medications, many stop smoking services are e-cigarette friendly and are already supporting smokers who want to stop with the help of an EC. However, for those services that are early in their journey or looking to make improvements, the National Centre for Smoking Cessation and Training has set out the key elements for ensuring services are EC friendly:

  • Recognise the potential benefit that e-cigarettes have in helping smokers to quit
  • Respect the choices that clients make when considering what evidence-based methods to use for a quit attempt, including the choice to use an e-cigarette
  • Operate a system of support, including behavioural support, for people who choose to use e-cigarettes to quit smoking

The National Centre for Smoking Cessation and Training guidance is accompanied by a free online course for health and social care professionals: ‘E-cigarettes: a guide for healthcare professionals’.

Hampshire service Quit4Life’s top tips for an EC friendly service

The Quit4Life stop smoking service in Hampshire has been working in this way for a number of years and has seen much success. They offer the following tips for others looking to develop their service.

  • Speak to vapers and people who want to stop smoking

Market research with current vapers and smokers is one way of finding out what local service users want.

  • Help staff to develop and maintain up to date knowledge

Providing training and regular updates can help staff feel more confident to discuss EC. New online training for healthcare professionals is now available.

  • Talk to local retailers

It’s important to be aware of the range of EC products available, the current retail guidelines, the terminology, and the different ways of vaping so you can offer appropriate advice.

  • Let smokers know you’re e-cigarette friendly

But, remember there are rules on advertising and it’s important to get the balance right when communicating about your service.

  • Engage with other healthcare professionals (HCPs)

This helps make sure there are consistent messages on EC and that HCPs know what you offer and can refer people to your service.

  • Continue to develop and improve

By working with independent local vape shops, Quit4Life was able to set up a voucher scheme as a way to provide a starter kit for those who may not otherwise have been able to afford the initial outlay. The scheme will be evaluated and continue to evolve to include more retailers and easier access to the vouchers.

  • Remember vaping isn’t for everybody, and some people just don’t get on with it

Continue to discuss all available smoking cessation pharmacotherapies.

In conclusion, it’s important that LSSS embrace the opportunities that ECs offer and support smokers who choose ECs as a quit aid. Recent estimates suggest that ECs could be contributing to up to 57,000 additional quitters per year in England – with LSSS on-board there’s a potential for many more.

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