Unprecedented cooperation between health organizations in the battle against smoking is starting to pay dividends, research from a number of different sources suggest. The pioneering new strategy in the United Kingdom has witnessed a united approach between major groups including Action on Smoking and Health (ASH), Cancer Research UK, New Nicotine Alliance, the Royal College of Physicians and the UK Centre for Tobacco and Alcohol Studies in the drive to cut smoking numbers.
For many years, smokers have been urged to quit due to the dire health consequences associated with smoking cigarettes. However, the concept of harm reduction – which encourages smokers to switch to less harmful alternatives such as electronic cigarettes – appears now to be proving more popular, as figures are starting to show. In Great Britain, the number of smokers has now reached its lowest point since records began in 1974, with 17.2 percent of adults smoking in 2015 compared to 20.1 percent in 2010, the Office for National Statistics said.
The number of e-cigarette users in Britain has also risen exponentially during that time, with some 2.9m adults now describing themselves as vapers. However, while still growing, there are indications that number has started to plateau since 2013. The annual Smokefree GB survey from ASH found that, for the first time ever, more former smokers are using electronic cigarettes than current smokers. Given that electronic cigarettes are seen as being around 95 percent safer than smoked tobacco, it is easy to see why many health organizations are encouraging their usage for those looking to quit, or at least reduce their tobacco consumption.
This does mark a radical departure from traditional methods of trying to persuade people to stub out their cigarettes once and for all. It also sees Britain – where more than 8m people still smoke – leading the way in this radical new approach. And others are starting to follow, with France copying the Stoptober initiative – albeit in November, the new FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb willing to reshuffle the cards, and Public Health authorities all over Europe starting to see harm reduction as a silver bullet.
Adverts urging people to stop smoking on health grounds first appeared in the 1960s.
For the next 40 years, they largely revolved around shock tactics, highlighting the link between smoking and cancer, lung disease and heart disease. Warnings and graphic images have become commonplace on tobacco products. The number of smokers in the UK did drop, yet the significant decline over the last five years is especially noteworthy, particularly when linked to the prevalence of electronic cigarettes and the exponential growth in their popularity.
This link is now being viewed as so significant that even the British government is using it as a lynchpin in their renewed efforts to help people stop. The annual Stoptober 2017 campaign in England has backed the use of electronic cigarettes as a quitting aid for the first time. They featured in television adverts, while doctors and other health professionals are being encouraged to advise smokers of their advantages when it comes to quitting. Doubts do remain, with the NHS still refusing to officially prescribe their usage and concerns lingering over addiction and the health impact of electronic cigarettes which use nicotine.
However, it appears those dissenting voices are in the minority as the UK continues to embrace this new strategy in the on-going battle to encourage people to give up smoking.