Free Vapes in Emergency Departments Help Smokers Quit

free vapes emergency departments help smokers quit

A recent study conducted by researchers from the University of East Anglia (UEA) has proposed that offering free vapes to smokers in hospital emergency departments, along with smoking cessation advice, could potentially help thousands of people quit smoking each year. The trial, which took place between January and August 2022 in six UK emergency departments, aimed to explore an opportunistic approach to reach smokers who may be less likely to engage with traditional stop smoking services.

Trial Methodology and Results

During the study, a group of 484 daily smokers visiting the emergency departments were offered brief advice from a dedicated stop smoking adviser while awaiting discharge. They were also provided with an e-cigarette starter kit and referred to stop smoking services. A second group of 488 patients received written information on accessing stop smoking services but were not directly referred.

The researchers assessed smoking habits six months later, using carbon monoxide tests to confirm if participants had quit smoking. The results showed that those who were referred to services and offered vape kits were 76% more likely to have given up smoking compared to the other group. The quit rate at six months was 7.2% in the intervention group, compared to 4.1% in the control group. Additionally, the self-reported seven-day abstinence from smoking at six months was 23% in the group offered more advice, compared to 13% in the group signposted to services.

Potential Impact and Implications

Dr. Ian Pope from UEA’s Norwich Medical School highlighted the potential impact of this intervention, stating, “Swapping to e-cigarettes could save thousands of lives. We believe that if this intervention was widely implemented, it could result in more than 22,000 extra people quitting smoking each year.”

The researchers emphasized the importance of providing smoking cessation support in emergency departments to reach groups of the population that may not routinely engage with stop smoking services but have the most to gain from quitting smoking. With approximately 6.4 million adult smokers in the UK, according to the Office for National Statistics, and smoking costing England about £17 billion a year, this intervention could have significant public health and economic benefits.

Expert Opinions and Support

Professor Caitlin Notley, co-lead of the trial and also from UEA’s Norwich Medical School, noted that vapes can be an attractive option to help people stop smoking. “We know that they are much less harmful than smoking tobacco, and that they have been shown to help smokers quit,” she added.

Hazel Cheeseman, deputy chief executive of public health charity Action on Smoking and Health (Ash), described the findings as “compelling” and urged those in the NHS and local government who are planning services for smokers to carefully consider them. She highlighted the importance of low-cost support combined with e-cigarettes, located where smokers are accessing existing care, to make rapid progress in reducing smoking, particularly among disadvantaged groups.


The study, funded by the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) and published in the Emergency Medicine Journal, provides valuable insights into the potential of offering free vapes and smoking cessation advice in emergency departments to help smokers quit. As smoking continues to be a significant public health concern, innovative approaches like this could play a crucial role in reducing the burden of smoking-related diseases and improving overall population health.

Sophia Bennett