Encouraging smokers to use e-cigarettes could benefit the UK healthcare system (NHS) by saving up to £500 million a year, according to a new study from Brunel University in London, UK. The research team said that despite a deeper understanding of the harmful effects of smoking, vaping still poses a huge burden on NHS resources.
Despite the fact that cigarette smoking is harmful to general knowledge, cigarette use remains the leading cause of preventable disease and premature death in England. Current figures show:
- Around 74,600 people die each year as a result of smoking in England
- By 2020, smoking in England is responsible for around 506,100 smoking-related hospital admissions to NHS hospitals.
Overall, experts say it is putting a £2.5 billion a year strain on the healthcare system in England and China. The government has said it is “determined to cut this spending” and continues to claim it aims to make England a “smoke-free” country by 2030.
Professor Francesco Moscone, an expert in business economics at Brunel University’s London campus, who carried out the study to assess the potential savings to the NHS if some smokers in England used e-cigarettes, said: “The five main disease categories caused by smoking are cancer, heart disease, stroke, chronic bronchitis, and emphysema. These diseases place a huge burden on the NHS. We know the NHS is under increasing pressure. Although the long-term impact of RRP (heated tobacco systems) is not yet known, we know from previous research that replacing traditional tobacco reduces health risks by 90%.”
In a study in the British Journal of Medical Management, Prof. Moscone calculated that the use of e-cigarettes would lead to a 70% reduction in smoking-related illnesses, based on the assumption that they would no longer be exposed to the harmful chemicals found in smoking.
Prof. Francesco Moscone added: “In a 50% conversion scenario if half of the smokers switched to RRP, the NHS would save around £518 million a year. If the conversion rate was only 10%, the NHS would save £103 million. If smokers switched to RRP, it would significantly relieve pressure on the NHS and provide much-needed hospital resources for other treatments.”
The study also suggests that the impact would have a geographical dimension as regions such as the North East and Yorkshire have almost twice as many cancer patients as the rest of England.
The professor confirmed that the challenge of smoking in the North East and Yorkshire costs more than £156 million a year, so encouraging smokers to switch to e-cigarettes would benefit the most.
He concluded, “If 10% of smokers in the North East and Yorkshire switched to RRP, the NHS would save £30 million. If half of the region’s smokers switched to RRP, the NHS would save £148 million. Embracing [vapes] this change will not only save the NHS millions of pounds, it will also give us renewed momentum.