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

PA Photo: Michael Crabtree

Starter packs are being sent out to help homeless people quit smoking as part of a new trial - Credit: PA

Starter packs are being sent out to help homeless people quit smoking as part of a new trial. 

Researchers at the University of East Anglia (UEA) will be handing out e-cigarette starter packs as part of a £1.7 million national trial, led by London South Bank University. 

The UEA team will collaborate with the NHS Vulnerable Adults Service in Norwich on the project.

The UEA sign, Earlham Road entrance.

The University of East Anglia (UEA) - Credit: Archant

Professor Caitlin Notley, from UEA’s Norwich Medical School, said: “We know that around 70pc of people who are homeless smoke tobacco -this is far higher than the UK average of 14.1pc.

“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.

“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.”

For people on low or no income, the price of a starter kit is high at around £25.

The trial will investigate whether supplying free e-cigarette starter kits at centres for the homeless, could help to combat this problem.

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The research project is led by London South Bank University [LSBU] and UCL in collaboration with UEA and multiple other universities.

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 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.”

The scheme has been made possible thanks to a grant award from the National Institute for Health Research.