The UK provides free e-cigarettes to homeless smokers and starts a smoking cessation trial

A study conducted earlier this year examined the feasibility of distributing e-cigarettes to smokers in homeless centers in the UK, with the aim of improving their health and reducing the financial burden of buying cigarettes.

As part of an early trial, four homeless centers in the UK were assigned to general care (UC) or electronic cigarette (EC) groups. The 32 participants of the UC team accepted the smoking cessation advice and received support from the local smoking cessation service. Forty-eight EC group participants were given an e-cigarette starter kit and 4 weeks of e-liquid supply.

The compiled results show that in both groups, depression and anxiety scores declined during the course of the study. However, the group that received the e-cigarette starter pack had a higher success rate in quitting. The researchers report: “The intervention of e-cigarettes is very popular, with minimal negative effects, and few unintended consequences (such as loss, theft, and the addition of illegal substances)。”

The purpose of this trial is to evaluate the feasibility of providing free e-cigarette starter packs to smokers participating in homeless centers, and to estimate the parameters in order to provide information for possible larger trials in the future.

Later, a larger experiment will be carried out, this time including 32 homeless centers in five regions of the UK-Scotland, Wales, London, South East and East England. The average price of an e-cigarette starter kit is about ?25, and it will be distributed free of charge to people who participate in 50% of participating centers, while those in other centers will be assigned to a care group.

The current trial will include 480 participants, 240 in each group, and 15 in each center. Professor Caitlin Knotley from the Norwich School of Medicine at the University of East Anglia emphasized that the proportion of homeless people who smoke is higher than the proportion of the general population. “We know that about 70% of homeless people smoke, which is much higher than the UK average of 14.1%. We also know that e-cigarettes are the most popular way to quit smoking. Some studies have shown that e-cigarettes are better than nicotine gum or Patches are more helpful and much less harmful than smoking.”

She reiterated that e-cigarettes are an effective smoking cessation tool. “E-cigarettes simulate the experience of smoking because they are handheld and produce smoke-like vapors when used. They may be an attractive option to help people quit smoking, even if they have tried and failed.”