Many Quit services have felt the squeeze as reduced funding from central government has led to council cutbacks. Jonathan Ashworth asked: “What assessment has his Department made of the effect of changes in the level of funding for smoking cessation services on health inequalities?”
Steven Brine responded that this is not his concern because “local authorities are best-place to take decisions about the services required”.
Ashworth followed this up by saying: “With reference to Public Health England's document, Stop smoking options: guidance for conversations with patients, published on 20 August 2018, what evidence Public Health England assessed to inform its recommendation that E-cigarettes can help people quit smoking, with similar or better results than NRT?”
Brine replied: “Public Health England (PHE) referenced two papers in the guidance that helped inform its recommendation. They were:
- ‘Electronic cigarettes for smoking cessation: a randomised controlled trial’ by Bullen and others
- ‘Real-world effectiveness of e-cigarettes when used to aid smoking cessation: a cross-sectional population study’ by Brown and other”
“People using e-cigarettes and stop smoking medicines consecutively have the highest rates of success, with 75% quitting successfully”
“PHE’s recommendation is also supported by evidence from local stop smoking services in England, where people using e-cigarettes and stop smoking medicines consecutively have the highest rates of success, with 75% quitting successfully compared to 50% for those using medicines alone.”
Ashworth’s third recently answered question was: “What comparative assessment his Department has made of the advice on the efficacy of e-cigarettes as a stop smoking aid between Public Health England’s document entitled Stop smoking options: guidance for conversations with patients and NICE’s document entitled Stop smoking interventions and services guidance.”
To which, Brine said: “Public Health England (PHE) and the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) agree that, although not risk free, e-cigarettes are substantially less harmful than smoking. PHE and NICE also agree that e-cigarettes can help smokers to quit and that it is important for a smoker to quit smoking completely to get the full benefits to their health.”
“PHE’s document ‘Stop smoking options: guidance for conversations with patients’ and NICE’s document entitled ‘Stop smoking interventions and services guidance’ are also well aligned with advice from the British Medical Association, the Royal College of Physicians and the Royal College of General Practitioners.”
Harrow East’s Bob Blackman asked: “The recent report from the Royal College of Physicians, ‘Hiding in plain sight: Treating tobacco dependency in the NHS’, made clear the cost savings and health benefits there would be if doctors identified smokers and referred them to smoking cessation services, so will next month’s plan include that, particularly for pregnant women and mental health patients?”
Kevin Barron asked: “Will the Minister tell me whether the withdrawal of funding for the Healthy Futures programme in the north-west and Public Health Action in the south-west likely to help or hinder us meeting the smoking cessation targets in the tobacco control programme?”
Steven Brine is yet to respond to Blackman and Barron.
Blackman asked a further question to the Chancellor of the Exchequer. He wanted to know, “whether e-cigarettes which gain authorisation as licensed medicines from the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency will be taxed at the reduced rate of VAT when sold over the counter.”
Mel Stride, Financial Secretary to the Treasury and Paymaster General, responded on behalf of the Chancellor: “Where the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency has approved medicinal E-cigarettes as pharmaceutical smoking cessation products, they could be subject to the 5% VAT if sold over the counter or zero-rated when dispensed on prescription.”