Reduce health inequality and boost incomes by accelerating the adoption of safer smoking alternatives, says think tank
- Smoking is the leading cause of premature preventable death, with around 80,000 attributable deaths annually.
- E-cigarettes and other smoking alternatives, such as heated tobacco and nicotine pouches, are significantly safer than cigarettes and have played a key role in accelerating the decline in the UK's smoking rate.
- Many people are misinformed about the relative risks of these products, or are unaware of their existence.
- If the smoking rate in the North East, North West and Yorkshire and the Humber was reduced to London's by smokers switching to vaping, nearly 2 million years of life would be saved
- The average smoker in these regions could boost their annual disposable income by upwards of 10% if they switched to a safer alternative.
A new report, 2 Million Years of Life: How Safer Smoking Alternatives can Level Up Health and Tackle the Cost of Living Crisis from the Adam Smith Institute (ASI) argues that the UK can cement its status as a world-leader in smoking cessation by giving smokers access to accurate information about the relative risks of vaping, and the range of alternatives available to them.
Report authors, Daniel Pryor and Mark Oates, highlight that although vaping has been shown to be 95% less harmful than smoking by Public Health England, the UK public's perception of the relative risks is inaccurate. Furthermore, smokers' awareness of other reduced-risk products, including heated tobacco products, nicotine pouches and Swedish Snus, remains at unacceptably low levels, despite their potential to cater for a large population of smokers who have tried vaping but returned to cigarettes.
Research conducted by the ASI shows that, if the adult smoking rate in the North East, North West and Yorkshire and the Humber was reduced to the same prevalence as London via smokers switching to vaping, nearly 2 million years of life would be saved. The research also showed that smokers in the North East, North West and Yorkshire and the Humber could boost their disposable income by around 1,600 a year if they switched to vaping; by around 1,075 a year if they switched to heated tobacco; and by around 866 per year if they switched to nicotine pouches.
The report recommends enacting the following reforms in order to accelerate the switch to safer smoking alternatives:
- Allow reduced risk product retailers to state the results of independently conducted research into the relative safety of their products.
- Replace current restrictions on the advertising of low-risk products with sensible controls on content and placement.
- Include heated tobacco products and nicotine pouches in the Office for Health Improvement and Disparities' upcoming annual evidence review on safer alternatives.
- Legalise the sale of Swedish Snus, a product which is vastly safer than smoking.
Daniel Pryor, report co-author and Head of Research at the Adam Smith Institute, said:
Smokers across the country are misinformed about or unaware of safer alternatives to cigarettes-with those in deprived regions of the UK taking the hardest hit to their health and incomes. It's ludicrous that the Government acknowledges vaping is at least 95% less harmful than smoking but maintains an EU-era ban on businesses sharing this fact with smokers. If we want to level up health, save smokers money and grasp post-Brexit opportunities, doubling down on tobacco harm reduction is the best way forward.
Mark Oates, report co-author and Fellow of the Adam Smith Institute, said:
"The Government has a golden opportunity to level up health and also address the financial difficulties of those in poorer regions of the UK. At a time when disposable incomes are being squeezed, switching from cigarettes to safer, cheaper alternatives could put thousands into the pockets of families up and down the country, with the greatest impact felt by the least well-off."
Notes to editors:
For further comments or to arrange an interview, contact Emily Fielder, email@example.com | 0758 477 8207.
The report's full results methodology can be found on pages 8-11.
Daniel Pryor is the Head of Research at the Adam Smith Institute, and has written numerous reports on tobacco harm reduction.
Mark Oates is a Fellow of the Adam Smith Institute and harm reduction advocate.
The report is now live on the Adam Smith Institute website and is available here.
The Adam Smith Institute is a free market, neoliberal think tank based in London. It advocates classically liberal public policies to create a richer, freer world.