Vouchers to buy school meals and free e-cigarettes for pregnant women. These are two of the measures to combat poverty in South London.
"Quitting smoking can save a pregnant woman nearly £2,000 a year. We know that e-cigarettes are less harmful and that they are already helping many people to quit smoking," said Ben Kind, a local politician in the district of Lambeth.
Since October 2022, pregnant women in South London can access free e-cigarettes to stay smoke-free. According to the local authorities, the initiative is one of several measures to improve the health of economically disadvantaged families.
"Smoking harms the unborn child and it is much more common for women in poverty to continue smoking during pregnancy. If a woman can stop smoking with the help of e-cigarettes, we want to support this," said a spokesperson for Lambeth Council. to the BBC.
Recommended by authorities
The action in Lambeth, a south London borough, is based on previous studies where economically vulnerable groups were given free access to e-cigarettes to support smoking cessation. Vaping is an effective and relatively risk-free way to become smoke-free, according to the report. state-run NHS and the method is recommended by the health authorities in England. But according to Ben Kind, responsible for health interventions in Lambeth, the measure is not just a health project. It is as much about economics.
"We know that smoking contributes to poverty. Giving up smoking can save a family nearly £2,000 a year. We want to help them stop smoking and improve their finances at the same time." he told the BBC.
Known risks of smoking
Although it is not fully known what the effects of taping are on the unborn child, it considers Ben Kind as well as NHSthat the risk of harm is likely to be reduced by replacing cigarettes with e-cigarettes.
"Ideally, pregnant women should stop using nicotine altogether, but we know that this is very difficult for many. We also know that e-cigarettes help many people to quit smoking and that it is significantly less harmful than smoking," said Mr Perez. Ben Kind.
Also aimed at family members
It is not only the pregnant woman who is offered support to quit smoking. The target group also includes other family members.
"We are doing this in collaboration with our local stop smoking service and targeting not only pregnant women but also other members of the household who will be in close contact with the baby" says Mr Perez. Ben Kind to the BBC.
The vouchers, which will cover the cost of e-cigarettes, are part of a larger package that also includes reimbursement for school meals and contributions to an open kitchen where voluntary organisations can prepare and serve food to the economically disadvantaged.
Rapidly reducing the number of smokers
According to a recently published report by the British Office for health improvement and disparities (formerly Public Health England), smoking has fallen rapidly since 2010, from 20 to 13 per cent. A major contributing factor is that e-cigarettes are increasing smoking cessation rates and that vaping has replaced smoking for nearly 4 million Britons.