Homeless people to be given free e-cigarettes as part of new trial

28 June 2021, 09:25

240 participants in the trial will be given a free e-cigarette starter kit
240 participants in the trial will be given a free e-cigarette starter kit. Picture: PA

By Daisy Stephens

Homeless people are to be given free e-cigarette starter packs as part of a trial designed to help them quit smoking.

The £1.7 million research trial will see half of 480 participants in 32 centres across Scotland, Wales, London, the South East and East of England receive free e-cigarette starter kits, with the other half allocated to a care group.

"We know that around 70 per cent of people who are homeless smoke tobacco - this is far higher than the UK average of 14.1 per cent," said Professor Caitlin Notley, from the University of East Anglia's (UEA) Norwich Medical School.

"We also know that e-cigarettes are the most popular method of quitting smoking, with some studies suggesting they are more helpful aids than nicotine gum or patches and much less harmful than smoking tobacco."

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"Electronic cigarettes mimic the experience of cigarette smoking because they are hand-held and generate a smoke-like vapour when used.

"They can be an attractive option for helping people switch from smoking, even if they have tried and failed in the past."

E-cigarette starter kits usually cost around £25.

The research project is led by London South Bank University (LSBU) and UCL in collaboration with UEA, Kings College London, Queen Mary University of London, the University of York, Cardiff University, the University of Stirling and the University of Edinburgh.

It has been funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR).

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Professor Lynne Dawkins from LSBU said: "In our earlier, smaller research trial, we found that e-cigarette starter kits worked well for participants.

"Staff at homeless centres were able to support the study and we collected the data we needed to conduct a full trial.

"This grant award from the National Institute for Health Research will fund a much-needed larger trial, looking at whether supplying e-cigarettes to smokers attending homeless centres could help them to quit - and whether it offers them value for money.

"This is the first study of its kind in the world to look at trialling this method.

"If we find that providing free e-cigarette starter kits helps people to quit, homeless centres could decide to adopt this approach in future, to help reduce the impact of smoking-related diseases on the homeless."