Taskforce Says Smoking Is An Illness

Posted 28th May 2021 by Dave Cross
A taskforce has said tobacco addiction needs to be treated like an illness and that the number of NHS staff trained to offer advice needs to be increased. The UK Vaping Industry Association (UKVIA) has responded to the announcement from Sarah MacFadyen, Vice Chair of the Taskforce for Lung Health and Head of Policy and External Affairs at Asthma UK and the British Lung Foundation.

The Taskforce suggests that many of the UK’s 6.9 million smokers are not getting the support they need to stop.

MacFadyen writes: “A key tool for supporting people to quit is Very Brief Advice (VBA), also known as VBA. The Taskforce for Lung Health recommends that this 30-second intervention is delivered by all healthcare professionals in consultations with a patient who smokes. VBA is also recommended by the National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (NICE) as an evidence-based and cost-effective intervention in which all frontline practitioners should receive training. According to Asthma UK and the British Lung Foundation, over half of UK GP’s have not had access to this training even though GPs who have had training in the delivery of VBA are three times more likely to deliver VBA at least once a week.” (1)

The Taskforce cites reductions in funding for smoking cessation treatments in recent years. These cuts are likely to have deprived a million smokers of the support which they should have been entitled to, to enable them to quit smoking and they are the primary reason why the UKVIA (2) established its annual VApril campaign which has now been running for four years, to promote the benefits of e-cigarettes. The UKVIA has long championed and continues to call for clear advice on the safety of vaping products and their success rate in helping smokers to quit.

The Taskforce for Lung Health also referenced an audit of hospitals across the country by the British Thoracic Society which indicated that only 15% of hospitals offered their outpatients reliable access to a stop smoking service.

The trade body says that ensuring that smokers across the UK are aware of the potential impact which e-cigarettes can have on their ability to switch, is likely to be a major benefit to public health. In this context the UKVIA and the wider vaping industry welcomed the latest trial of e-cigarette products and other smoking cessation methods, which will begin later this year in five hospital A&E units, funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR).


It is important to understand that cigarette smoke contains thousands of distinct constituents, many of which are toxic or carcinogenic. It is these toxic by-products of combustion, not the nicotine, that are responsible for smoking-related death and disease. E-cigarettes do not burn tobacco leaves but use electronic heat sources to aerosolise a nicotine-containing liquid that is then inhaled by the user. This provides nicotine without burning tobacco, thus significantly reducing exposure to the harmful chemicals found in tobacco smoke,” commented UKVIA.

The UKVIA states that it has consistently called for Government support for the health service by firstly signposting clinicians to the latest clinical guidance on e-cigarettes.

This should be supported with both medical professionals and local stop smoking practices adopting a consistent approach to supporting patients attempting to quit smoking by recommending e-cigarettes as the most effective and least harmful alternative. This is a recommendation which the UKVIA reaffirmed in its submission to the Tobacco and Related Products Regulations review carried out earlier this year.”

The UKVIA’s Director-General John Dunne said: “It is of little surprise to see that the UK’s remaining 6.9 million smokers are not receiving the help to quit that they should be. Greater understanding of the harm reduction tools available to adult smokers and the consistency of the delivery of this guidance is nothing short of critical. This is especially important if the Government ever wishes to meet ambitions for a Smokefree society in England by 2030.

“At every opportunity, the UKVIA will make the case for fair and proportionate changes to the regulations which govern e-cigarettes, with the aim to increase understanding, challenge misinformation and allow better communication with those looking to switch to a less harmful alternative. This possibility is now within reach, particularly as the Government reviews the TRPR legislation. Post-Brexit, the global COP9 Summit later this year in the Netherlands also offers a major opportunity for the UK to promote sensible regulation of these products and to have a significant impact on reducing smoking rates across the globe.”



  1. Tobacco dependency: Treat it like any other illness - https://www.openaccessgovernment.org/tobacco-dependency-treat-it-like-any-other-illness/110449/
  2. The UK Vaping Industry Association - https://www.ukvia.co.uk/

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

 Dave Cross
Article by Dave Cross
Freelance writer, physicist, karateka, motorbikes, and dog walker
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