By Mark Eastwood MP.

As someone who has experienced the struggle of quitting smoking first-hand, I was glad to see that in the Government’s response to the Khan Review published this week, harm reduction was rightly a key priority and at the very heart of the Government’s response.

I truly know how difficult it can be to quit for good. For many years, I was a smoker, and I found it incredibly challenging to give it up.

However, I was eventually able to stop smoking by using nicotine patches, which are a less harmful alternative to smoking. These patches contain nicotine but none of the harmful chemicals found in cigarettes, making them a much safer alternative to smoking.

The experience of using nicotine patches to quit smoking was life-changing for me.

The experience of using nicotine patches to quit smoking was life-changing for me. I was able to break free from my addiction and improve my health and well-being. And I know that many other smokers have also found success using less harmful alternatives to smoking.

At the time, I was hugely supportive of many of the Khan review’s findings. The review rightly highlighted the potential of alternatives such as vapes and heated tobacco products in reducing the harm caused by smoking. These products have been shown to be less harmful than smoking, and many smokers have successfully used them to quit or switch to such alternatives. In the response, it was reassuring to see the Government harnessing the harm reduction value of vapes via the newly announced ‘Swap to Stop’ scheme and mandatory cigarette pack inserts. However, I would urge that these inserts provide clear and accurate information on the relative risks of all nicotine products, ensuring that smokers have access to a full range of less harmful alternatives to smoking – rather than simply a repetition of health warnings already on cigarettes.

That said, it is important that some alternatives do not end up in the hands of those who have never smoked before. As we have seen in recent months, this is becoming a concerning trend.

Vapes can be a very successful alternative for smokers when quitting cigarettes but they should not be a gateway for young non-smokers.

Vapes can be a very successful alternative for smokers when quitting cigarettes but they should not be a gateway for young non-smokers. The Government’s newly announced vaping enforcement squad will go a long way to stamping out underage usage, but we must also ensure that when we look to address the issue of youth vaping, we do not make it harder for smokers to access a range of alternatives to find what works for them. For me it was patches, for others it could be heated tobacco, for others it could be nicotine pouches.

One such way of ensuring that vapes are not ending up in the hands of those they shouldn’t is by introducing a licensing system for retailers and simultaneously, ensuring that the increased the authority of trading standards teeth to ensure that young people are not able to buy vapes and retailers aren’t selling illegal vapes.

I am well aware that harm reduction should never be seen as a replacement for efforts to prevent people from taking up smoking in the first place. But for the millions of smokers who are already addicted to cigarettes, alternatives offer a vital lifeline and a way to improve their health and quality of life.

As a government, we have a responsibility to do all we can to help smokers quit or reduce their tobacco use, and I believe that embracing harm reduction is an important part of this.

As a government, we have a responsibility to do all we can to help smokers quit or reduce their tobacco use, and I believe that embracing harm reduction is an important part of this.

Overall, I feel the Government’s response to the Khan review acknowledges this and allows the UK to work towards a future where fewer people are harmed by cigarettes. Ultimately, the Government’s response struck the balance between ensuring that adults have access to less harmful alternatives to smoking, while also taking action to prevent young people from taking up vaping.


Mark Eastwood is a British politician serving as the member of Parliament for Dewsbury, including Mirfield, Kirkburton and Denby Dale since 2019.

Find out more about Mark at www.markeastwood.org.uk

Photo credit: UK Gov – Attribution 3.0 Unported (CC BY 3.0) licence

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