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In 2019, the UK Government made a pledge for England to become a “Smoke Free” country by the year 2030. This means that 5% or less than the countries adult population would be classed as smokers.
An independent report commissioned by Public Health England which was conducted by Dr Javed Khan OBE, indicated that this goal was set to be missed by quite some way projecting 2037 at the earliest for this to be achieved and even later for areas that are more deprived and do not have the resources available, and within his report he made some critical recommendations for the Government to step in and take action if they wanted these goals to be achieved.
The news then broke that sent ripples through the vaping industry not only in the UK but globally also, that a “Swap to Stop” scheme was being rolled out by the UK Government, entitling 1 million smokers to a voucher which can be exchanged for a Vaping Starter Kit at their local vape shop. And over the course of the last week since this news has broken, several countries have taken notice of this revolutionary scheme and are being prompted to follow suit by Pro-Vaping groups.
In this article, I take a look at the Swap to Swap scheme that has been announced, what countries are now considering following suit, and why this would be a positive move for other countries to consider doing if they aren’t already.
The UK Government’s Swap To Stop Scheme
It was on April 11th 2023 that UK Health Minister Neil O’Brian announced that the United Kingdom will be “doubling down” on backing the use of E-Cigarettes and Vaping as the top smoking cessation method by encouraging one million current smokers in the UK to swap their cigarettes with free vape starter kits in the form of a voucher that can be exchanged at their local vape shop and start them off on their vaping journey and quitting smoking for good.
It was also announced within the Health Minister’s statement that financial incentives would also be offered to Pregnant women to stop smoking and start vaping by offering up to £400 in vouchers as well as putting in mandatory information sheets into packs of tailor made cigarettes to further educate people on the risks/dangers of smoking and the smoking cessations tools that are available to them on today’s market.
This announcement was huge and sent absolute ripples through the Vaping Industry in the UK, as this was a huge leap forward in the bid to make England a smoke free country, and showed some serious willingness and wanting from the Government, which had been scarcely seen since the 2019 pledge was made.
Pro-Vaping groups such as the UKVIA and the WVA rejoiced at this news, and welcomed it with open arms and praise for the UK Government as this would further lament the UK’s status at the forefront of being a smoking cessation champion and heavily promoting tobacco harm reduction methods, such as Vaping. And it was at this point of the UK being further propelled to the front that other countries pro-vaping groups began taking notice of what was happening here, and pushing forward for their country to follow suit as well. Let’s look at this in more detail
New Zealand Urged To Follow The UK
If you’ve read any of my previous articles regarding Pro-Vaping groups around the world, chances are you would have seen me mention CAPHRA or as their full name goes; The Coalition of Asia Pacific Harm Reduction Advocates. This is the name of the group of pro vaping advocates based in New Zealand, and Nancy Loucas is the Executive Co-Ordinator of CAPHRA and is the prominent public speaking figure for the group. She had the following to say about the UK’s move;
“The bold move by the UK Government to provide free vapes to smokers is a testament to the country’s commitment to saving lives and protecting public health. New Zealand has a real opportunity to follow in their footsteps and adopt a similar policy that could drastically reduce the harm caused by smoking,”
New Zealand have the same SmokeFree goal for their country, but set the deadline a lot sooner than what England is, with their projection date to be happening in 2025. However, this is a target that is likely to be missed due to the smoking rates still being stubbornly high amongst adults especially the Maori and Pacific communities within the country.
New Zealand are very close to being on par to the UK with their support for vaping, and actually released The SmokeFree Environments and Regulated Products (Vaping) Amendment Act 2020 in November of 2020, which is very similar to the TPD Regulations that the UK Government released here, and they rebuffed this Act in 2021 with relevant safety guidelines that all vaping products must adhere to. They’ve created a specific website about it which you can check out for all the information about it.
Whilst the support for Vaping is similar, the amount of smokers still prevail to be high numbers, again much like it is here in the UK. CAPHRA believes that adopting the UK’s “free vape” scheme could help encourage those stubborn smokers to quit. Nancy Loucas has urged the New Zealand Government to take notice of the Swap to Stop scheme and how invested the UK Government are to getting smokers to quit
“New Zealand has shown leadership in the past by embracing innovative harm reduction strategies, and this is another opportunity to demonstrate that commitment to the rest of the world,” said Loucas. “Offering free vapes to smokers would not only save lives but also reduce the financial burden on our healthcare system.”
For New Zealand to adopt the same approach as the UK would show huge forthcoming and willingness to the cause of getting the country to Smoke Free status by their projected end goal date of the year 2025. It will be interesting to see how they play with the proverbial ball that is now in their court…
Not Everyone Is Willing to Adopt The UK’s Plans
Of course, not everyone will have the same feelings towards things, it’s human nature really. And it’s no exception in this case for supporting the Swap to Stop scheme that the UK has launched but who could I be talking about? Well, it probably comes as no surprise that it’s the Australian Health Minister.
The state of Vaping in Australia at the minute is an absolute mess to put it bluntly, and has been for quite a while, with no signs of improvement looming. Australia banned the sale of all nicotine containing E-Liquid in 2021, and put the rules as only people with a valid prescription from a Doctor could obtain E-Liquid from a Pharmacy. But the veil was lifted on this which showed less than 1% of Australian Doctors in the country were actually capable of writing these scripts, and those who could were not forthcoming with it should there be any backlash from it, absolute chaos.
People have turned to black market sellers to obtain Disposable Vapes that have nicotine in, and in turn this is helping criminal gangs make record profits and sales by importing and distributing them in the country, even Uber drivers are getting in on the action selling Disposables to their passengers, it’s absolute madness. Pleas have been made to the Australian Health officials to do something in regards to relaxing the rules on vaping and help people out who want to quit smoking instead of hindering them, but as usual, it’s fallen on deaf ears and batted away faster than it came about.
Mark Butler is the Health Minister for Australia, and when asked about whether Australia would be considering copying the UK by offering free vapes to the smokers in their country, Butler said there was “absolutely no chance” of Australia adopting this scheme, and labelled Vaping as a “public health menace” before adding “the tobacco industry has found a new way to develop a generation of nicotine addicts, and we will not stand for it.“
A rather arrogant reply I feel and also the absolute irony of the fact that actual cigarettes are fully regulated and sold everywhere in the country to help form a generation of nicotine addicts but E-Cigarettes that can actually help those previous generations of nicotine addicts makes me laugh.
If you’ve read any of my previous articles surrounding Australia and vaping, you’ll know that the regulations they have set out really aren’t working, with TGA officials even labelling it as a failure, but still they persist to remain and will likely stay that way no matter how much prompting and pleading is done to change them.
That concludes my article on this topic. I still am full of praise for the UK Government for adopting an even bigger stance on the support for Vaping and the use of E-Cigarettes for smoking cessation, and will also be full of praise for any other country that backs it as much as we do.
Currently, there really isn’t as many as there should be, so I’m hoping that New Zealand do take the same approach as suggested and then several countries will hopefully follow.[wpcode id=”14171″]