Sheffield City Council wants to promote the responsible use of e-cigarettes as a means of quitting smoking, if smokers cannot give up altogether.
The proposal is part of the council’s Tobacco Control Strategy Consultation, which was published on Tuesday.
The council said that e-cigarettes are “not without risk”, but less harmful than regular ones because they contain fewer toxic chemicals.
“E-cigarettes have the potential to reduce smoking prevalence in our more disadvantaged communities,” says the council document.
Smoking consultation: Key proposals
- More work in schools to prevent children from starting to smoke
- More smoke free outdoor sites and mass media campaigns
- Move money from stop smoking initiatives to fund the above
- Priority for people finding it hardest to quit
- Promote e-cigarettes to current smokers as way of reducing harm
The consultation also proposes to move more than £200,000 in public health funding away from stop smoking services and into prevention.
Mary Lea, the cabinet member for culture, sport and leisure, said that budget cuts meant the council could not fund everything to the level it would like to.
“[We] need to prioritise interventions that will deliver the largest public health benefit,” she said.
Under the proposals, priority in council services will be given to those finding it hardest to quit, who will receive eight weeks of face-to-face support as well as medication. All smokers will still have access to health advice.
An estimate of local data from Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) says that smoking costs South Yorkshire over £270 million per year in lost productivity, as well as more than £50 million in NHS costs.
The same data shows that Yorkshire and the Humber has a higher rate of smoking than any other English region.
No e-cigarettes in playgrounds
Sheffield’s smoke free playgrounds initiative, which came into force in July, does not allow e-cigarettes in areas where children play.
The council’s report on it, issued earlier this year, voiced the concern that e-cigarettes would “re-normalise” smoking.
A survey of Sheffield park users showed 73% of respondents in favour of banning the use of e-cigarettes within 10 metres of children’s playgrounds.
The new guidance is in line with that from Public Health England (PHE), the council said.
PHE said in a report published last year that very few people who had never smoked tobacco were taking up a regular e-cigarette habit.
The consultation will close on 2 January 2017.