A PROPOSAL to use cigarette packets to promote vaping could be considered in the UK.
Pharmacy minister Steve Brine said the “interesting idea” to help smokers switch to e-cigarettes as a cessation aid may be something his department would back.
The proposal to use cigarette packets, which currently feature public health images, as a vehicle to promote e-cigarettes was put to the minister by MP Stephen Metcalfe at a parliamentary hearing.
Brine was giving evidence along with representatives from the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC), Public Health England (PHE), the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence and the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency.
Tim Baxter, director of healthy behaviors at the DHSC, told the Science and Technology committee hearing on e-cigarettes that under current legislation it is illegal to put promotional material into cigarette packs, but agreed with Brine that it was something the government should look into further.
“It’s an interesting point, let me think about it,” Brine told MPs. “In a time of tight resource, it’s a very direct message.”
The meeting also discussed how there were inconsistencies across the UK’s smoking cessation services, with some local authorities providing more help than others. Brine defended the variation and said it should remain up to councils to decide how the £16billion allocated to public health should be distributed.
“Prevalence of smoking is different across the country and local authority smoking cessation services are different across the country for a reason,” he explained.
“If they [local authorities] are not doing well they have to account locally for their decisions.”
He did however tell the committee how important it was to keep spreading the health benefits of e-cigarettes so it becomes a “no-brainer” for local authorities to promote them to smokers.
Committee chair, Norman Lamb, pointed out that despite smoking being the single biggest cause of inequality of life expectancy for people with severe mental health conditions, it had been shown that only a third of NHS mental health trusts had banned e-cigarettes within their organisations.
Brine said while it did not surprise him, he again stated that it was up to the individual trust to decide their policy – but added that he was “certainly not relaxed about this” and explained how the government’s tobacco control plan identified mental health patients as a particularly at-risk group. He also added mental health patients were a group of smokers who could “absolutely” benefit from being offered e-cigarettes as an alternative.
He said: “To get smoke-free, it’s about trusts ending the culture around smoking — cigarette smoking is seen as a reward where individuals will interact in a way they wouldn’t otherwise.
“Very few people are permanent inpatients — they soon become outpatients — but, is that an opportunity to talk to them about the benefits of e-cigs? Absolutely.”
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