UK to pay people to stop smoking Malawi fails to move from tobacco

The anti-smoking lobby continues to make gains in the developing world , as Malawi’s continued dependency on tobacco might end in tears.

Two decades after campaigns started to reduce global smoking including the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, Malawi is still yet to kick start serious efforts to stop production and find alternative. 

Tobacco is blamed for rising cases of cancer and lung diseases and also poverty as thousands of workers are subjected to semi slavery conditions earning only US$30 (K45,000) a year in real income when they work as tenants.

The UK one of the traditional markets of Malawi Tobacco is pressing on to create a smoke free nation by 2030. It will offer free vapes and pay pregnant women to stop smoking.

A report in the Guardian newspaper says UK Ministers were to urge 1 million smokers to swap cigarettes for vapes, despite increasing alarm about the rise in young people vaping.

Under the new “swap to stop” scheme, vape starter kits will be offered to almost one in five of all smokers in England as part of the government’s “smoke free” drive.

Pregnant women will also be offered up to £400 (K680,000)  to stop smoking and a consultation will be launched on introducing mandatory advice on quitting smoking to be placed in cigarette packs.

The scheme comes on top of plans to crack down on the illegal sale of e-cigarettes to under-18s. A survey by Action on Smoking and Health (Ash) found that vaping among 11- to 17-year-olds has increased from 3.3% in 2021 to 7% last year.

The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) is trying to balance finding ways to cut underage vaping while at the same time ensuring vapes are available to help adult smokers to quit.

The UK health minister Neil O’Brien launched the new schemes in a speech on Tuesday.

“Up to two out of three lifelong smokers will die from smoking. Cigarettes are the only product on sale which will kill you if used correctly,” he is expected to say.

“We will offer a million smokers new help to quit. We will be funding a new national ‘swap to stop’ scheme – the first of its kind in the world.

“We will work with councils and others to offer a million smokers across England a free vaping starter kit.”

O’Brien said the government was concerned about the rise in youth vaping, and said he wanted a “clampdown” on businesses that were “getting children hooked on nicotine”.

As part of the plans a choice of products, strengths and flavours will be on offer to allow adult smokers to find the best alternative for them.

Funding for the £45m schemes over the next two years will come from the DHSC’s budget.

Officials say 9% of women still smoke during pregnancy in England and hope a financial incentive alongside behavioural support will get all of them to stop by the end of the year.

While the details are yet to be determined, officials expect vouchers will be available throughout pregnancy and could total up to £400 if they complete the scheme.

Last year, an independent review led by Dr Javed Khan said smoking should be banned in outdoor spaces such as beer gardens, outside cafes and on beaches.

Khan also said vaping should be promoted as a means to help people stop using tobacco.

But he acknowledged vapes were not a “silver bullet”, nor were they “totally risk free”

The  UK government has an ambitious plan of making England smoke-free by 2030.

Campaigners say the target, which equates to getting smoking rates to less than 5%, will be missed without further action.

Deborah Arnott, chief executive of Ash, said: “Vapes increase smokers’ chances of successfully quitting, as do vouchers for pregnant smokers, so these are welcome steps in the right direction, but they are nowhere near sufficient.”

She said “not enough has changed” since Khan’s report was published and said funding is “desperately needed to reinstate cuts of more than 90% to mass media campaigns”.

“Not to mention the absence of the tougher regulations Khan recommended to raise the age of sale, and reduce the appeal of smoking as well as vaping,” she added.

..all UK reporting by The Guardian.

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