While smoking rates in the UK have reached record lows, considerable inequalities remain amongst disadvantaged groups, and smoking prevalence amongst homeless adults, remains four times higher than the national average. To this effect, a trial was conducted to look into the feasibility of distributing e-cigarettes to smokers attending homeless centres in Britain. The objective of this trial was determining whether providing these individuals with free e-cigarette starter kits improved their health and eased the financial burden of purchasing cigarettes.

The study also estimated parameters so as to inform possible future trials conducted on a larger scale. As part of this trial, four homeless centres in Great Britain were allocated to either a Usual Care (UC) or E-Cigarette (EC) group. The 32 participants in the UC group, received smoking cessation advice and were offered support by a local Stop Smoking Service. The 48 EC group participants were given a vape starter kit with a 4-week e-liquid supply.

In January’s episode 12 of Oxford Podcasts, Jamie Hartmann-Boyce talked with study author Dr Sharon Cox, a Senior Research Fellow at the Department for Behavioural science and Health from University College London’s Tobacco and Alcohol Research Group. Cox discussed a future trial saying that the participants will be given a tank‐style refillable EC starter kit, a choice of nicotine strength e‐liquids and flavours and an EC fact‐sheet. E‐liquids will be supplied for four weeks at weekly intervals by centre staff. Participants will be given time to try different flavours and nicotine strengths at baseline and have the option to switch between flavours.

Receiving vape starter kits indicated more smoking cessation success

Meanwhile the results from the previous study indicated that in both groups, depression and anxiety scores declined over the course of the study. However, the group who received vape starter kits indicated more smoking cessation success. “The EC intervention was well received with minimal negative effects and very few unintended consequences (e.g. lost, theft, adding illicit substances),” reported the researchers.

“Substance dependence scores remained constant. Assuming those with missing follow up data were smoking, CO validated sustained abstinence at 24 weeks was 3/48 (6.25%) and 0/32 (0%) respectively for the EC and UC arms.”

“Providing an e-cigarette starter kit to smokers experiencing homelessness was associated with reasonable recruitment and retention rates and promising evidence of effectiveness and cost-effectiveness,” concluded the researchers.

UK: The NHS Will be Prescribing Vapes as Smoking Cessation Tools

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