Vaping pilot scheme will see health chiefs promoting e-cigarettes in fight against smoking

Picture by PAPicture by PA
Picture by PA
E-cigarettes could be a key tool in the fight against smoking in East Durham, according to health bosses.

Smoking prevalence has decreased steadily year on year since 2011 and is currently at 14.3%.

Despite being similar to the England average, around 63,000 people continue to smoke in County Durham.

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To tackle the issue, public health bosses have developed schemes to help smokers kick the habit – with ambitions to reach 5% prevalence by 2025.

One idea includes exploring the use of e-cigarettes / vaping as an alternative to smoking.

And a scheme taking place this financial year aims get independent vape shops on board.

In action, the scheme will allow the council to “better understand the vaping population” and could be rolled out if a initial pilot is successful.

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The plans were revealed during a meeting of the Health and Wellbeing Board at Durham County Hall.

But cabinet member for children and young people’s services, Coun Olwyn Gunn, asked about the potential impact of vaping on youngsters.

“We have been seeing vaping shops opening in our high streets and towns and wondered because they can be seen to be ‘cool’ by young people,” she said.

“Are we encouraging young people not to vape?”

Dr Stewart Findlay, chief officer of Durham Dales, Easington and Sedgefield Clinical Commissioning Group, said there was a need for more intelligence on the vaping industry.

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“How are we monitoring the population to make sure we’re not actually seeing an increase in nicotine addiction,” he asked.

Director of public health for Durham County Council, Amanda Healey, said she was looking at the situation closely in terms of the tobacco industry “looking for new markets.”

The public health boss said there is still a low proportion of young people who have never smoked or are currently vaping.

She added that vaping sales were age-restricted, with the devices being a safer alternative to smoking.

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Smokers in County Durham are estimated to spend £157.5million per year on tobacco products, contributing to around one in three households falling below the poverty line.

If this money was put back into the household, around 7,000 households in County Durham would be elevated out of poverty.