Free Vapes Given in A&E Could Save Thousands of Lives

Free vapes given out to smokers in A&E could save thousands of lives – according to research by the University of East Anglia (UEA).

The study, funded by the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR), took place across 6 NHS hospitals between January 2022 and August 2022.

The trial involved giving advice, a referral to stop smoking services and a free vape starter pack to smokers who happened to be in emergency departments.

Dr Ian Pope, of UEA Norwich Medical School, said: “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.”

Free Vapes Trial
484 patients who were daily smokers were given a direct referral to stop smoking services and a free vape starter kit, while a second group of 488 were given advice, but did not receive a starter vape kit or a direct referral. 

The study showed that patients who were given e-cigarette packs and were directly referred to stop smoking services were 76% more likely to quit smoking than those who weren’t.

The trial attempted to target ‘unmotivated quitters’ who don’t actively pursue smoking cessation, but know the health risks associated with tobacco and are willing to receive support.

Former research undertaken by the university suggested that 24% of emergency department attendees were smokers, with there being “good evidence that smokers in emergency departments are willing to consider quitting.”

Almost 1 in 4, or 23.9%, of people given the starter vape packs quit smoking altogether after 6 months, and people who were given vapes but hadn’t managed to quit smoking were found to have cut down the number of cigarettes they used.

Trial co-lead Professor Caitlin Notley said: ““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. 

“We know that they are much less harmful than smoking tobacco, and that they have been shown to help smokers quit. 

“About half of all people who smoke will die prematurely, losing on average 10 years of life, and for every death caused by smoking, approximately 30 more people are suffering from a smoking-related disease.  

“Smoking-related cancers, respiratory and cardiovascular diseases severely impact people’s quality of life as they get older and are a huge cost burden for the NHS.” 

Smoking in the UK
The health risks of smoking are vast.

Smoking is attributed to 76,000 deaths in the UK every year, and increases the risk of developing over 50 serious health conditions.

Smoking is also thought to cost the NHS £2.6bn per year, while smokers themselves pay approximately £2000 out of their own incomes each year.

Deborah Arnott, Chief Executive of Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) says:

“Smoking is a drain on society. It’s a cost to individuals in terms of their health and wealth and a cost to us all because it undermines the productivity of our economy and places additional burdens on our NHS and care services.”

Chief Executive of ASH, Hazel Cheeseman, described the UEA Norwich Medical School’s A&E study as “compelling”, and should be carefully considered by those in government who are planning smoking services.

The findings of the study were published in the Emergency Medicine Journal.

Will more free stop smoking vape kits be given out?
The actions taken in the UAE Norwich study are not commonplace, starter vape kits are not usually given out in A&E. The study was a trial funded by NIHR which took place during a 6 month period in 2022.

However, as part of the NHS ‘Swap to Stop’ scheme, free vape starter kits have been offered to 20% of all smokers in England, as the government looks to hone in on their ideal for a smoke free country by 2030.

Free vape NHS starter kits may be offered by local stop smoking services.


Vape starter kits are a proven tool in helping people quit smoking. 

This study revealed that there are huge numbers of people who are aware of the risks of smoking and are willing to quit, but don’t have the information or means to do so.

Given the right tools and a push in the right direction, it is evident that a significant number of current smokers would quit.