Smokers at N&N emergency department will be given vapes in trial

Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital. NNUH

The Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital is one of the trial participants - Credit: Nick Butcher

A trial to help smokers wean themselves out of addiction will see those attending the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital given vapes as a substitute.

The initiative, funded by the National Institute for Health Research, comes as a Cochrane Review - the international gold standard for trusted health information - updates its information on vapes today.

Led by the University of Oxford and the University of East Anglia, the review shows how nicotine e-cigarettes are more helpful in stopping smoking than replacements such as chewing gum and patches, as well as e-cigarettes which don't contain nicotine.

Over a 30-month period, patients attending the emergency department at one of five UK hospitals - the N&N, Royal London Hospital, Leicester Royal Infirmary and Edinburgh Royal Infirmary - will be asked if they want to take part in the trial.

If they do, they will be randomly assigned to receive either smoking advice during their ED wait, an e-cigarette starter pack and referral to local stop smoking services, or just written information about locally available stop smoking services.

hand holding an electronic cigarette

The Cochrane review, published April 29, explores the use of vapes in tackling smoking addiction - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Both groups will be asked if they are still smoking one, three and six months after they attended hospital. The research team hopes around 1,000 smokers will take part.

Professor Caitlin Notley, from UEA’s Norwich Medical School, said: “Many people who smoke want to quit, but find it difficult to succeed in the long term.

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“E-cigarettes mimic the experience of cigarette smoking because they are hand-held and generate a smoke-like vapour when used. They can be an attractive option for helping people switch from smoking, even if they have tried and failed in the past.

“We know that they are much less harmful than smoking tobacco, and that they have been shown to help smokers quit."

Professor Caitlin Notley is an addiction specialist at University of East Anglia Picture: UEA

Professor Caitlin Notley is an addiction specialist at the University of East Anglia. - Credit: Archant

Co-leading the trial, Dr Ian Pope said: "ED's in England see over 24 million people each year and around a quarter of them are smokers.

"Attending the emergency department offers a valuable opportunity for people to be supported to quit smoking. This will improve their chances of recovery from whatever has brought them to hospital."

“We’ll be looking at the number of people who successfully quit smoking across both groups, to see which intervention works best. We’ll also work out how much it would cost to roll the scheme out nationally,” Professor Notley added.