Southend-On-Sea: City Aims For ‘Smoke Free’ Target With Vaping Push
In recent years, there has been a growing push towards creating smoke-free environments in cities across the world. One city that is leading the charge is Southend-On-Sea, located in the East of England. With a bold target of becoming smoke-free by 2030, Southend-On-Sea is implementing innovative strategies to encourage smokers to quit tobacco and transition to vaping.
According to Krishna Ramkhelawon, the Director of Public Health in Southend-On-Sea, current figures indicate that less than 5% of the city’s population may be smokers by the end of the decade. This is a significant achievement considering the detrimental health effects associated with smoking. Ramkhelawon believes that the key to reaching this target lies in promoting vaping as a healthier alternative to traditional tobacco smoking.
While the health benefits of vaping are still subject to ongoing research, Ramkhelawon points to comparative data from 2017, which suggested that using tobacco was more likely to cause diseases than vaping. This data formed the basis of Southend-On-Sea’s approach since 2018 – to encourage people to transition from smoking to vaping. The city’s efforts have paid off, with a quit rate above 40%, surpassing the average rate of around 30% in most other places.
However, the vaping industry itself has faced scrutiny in recent times. Concerns have been raised about the potential harm of vaping, particularly among young people. The Local Government Association (LGA) is even calling for a complete ban on disposable vapes by 2024 due to litter problems, fire hazards, and their strong appeal to children.
Ramkhelawon acknowledges the ongoing debate surrounding vaping and highlights that further research is necessary to fully understand its effects. Nevertheless, he emphasized that the introduction of vaping as a smoking cessation method in 2019 has contributed significantly to the high rate of tobacco quitters in Southend-On-Sea.
To support smokers in their transition to vaping, Southend-On-Sea has established a comprehensive stop smoking service. This service involves 29 General Practitioners (GPs) and 11 pharmacists, who provide 12 weeks of support to individuals attempting to quit smoking. Additionally, four vape shops in the city offer a “vape swap” service, where smokers can exchange their tobacco products for a free vaping starter kit.
The efforts of Southend-On-Sea have not gone unnoticed. The National Knowledge and Improvement Services, a part of the Office of Health Improvement and Disparities, has advised Ramkhelawon that Southend could become the first area in the East of England to reach the 5% milestone of smokers in the population.
Southend-On-Sea’s ambitious goal of becoming smoke-free by 2030 is not without challenges and ongoing debates. However, the city’s proactive approach, promoting vaping as an alternative to smoking, demonstrates the potential for creating healthier communities and reducing the harmful effects of tobacco. As other cities around the world strive to achieve similar objectives, Southend-On-Sea serves as an example of innovation and determination in the pursuit of a smoke-free future.