The NHS in England would save more than £500m a year if half of England’s adult smokers switched from cigarettes to vapes, a major study has claimed.
Currently, smoking costs the health service an estimated £2.5bn per year, with smoking accounting for approximately 506,100 admissions to hospitals between 2019 and 2020.
But new research, led by Brunel University London (7 August), has suggested that a traditional smoker would see a 70% reduction in smoking-related diseases if they transitioned to a reduced risk product (RRP), such as a vape.
If 50% of adult smokers were to convert, the NHS would save £518m in a typical year, the researchers – who analysed data from NHS Digital, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) and the Royal College of Physicians – said.
This figure would still stand at £103m if only 10% of adult smokers switched to RRPs.
Researchers determined the figure by looking at statistics related to smoking as a cause of death, but also considered the risk of developing cancer, heart disease and stroke as a result of smoking.
Areas such as the North East and Yorkshire – which has almost double the number of people with lung cancer compared to most English regions – would see greater savings, they said.
If 10% of smokers in the region switched to RRPs, the NHS would save £30m a year, jumping to £148m if half swapped cigarettes for vapes.
The study was published in the British Journal of Healthcare Management.
It comes weeks after Steve Barclay, chair of the Health and Social Care Select Committee, urged the Government to bring restrictions on marketing and packing for vapes in line with those on tobacco products.
Professor Francesco Moscone, a business economics expert from Brunel University London who conducted the new study, said: ‘Although the long-term effects of RRPs are still unknown, we know from previous research that alternatives to traditional cigarettes result in a 90% reduction in the exposure to chemicals that are major contributors to health risks.’
He also said: ‘Cancer, heart disease, stroke, chronic bronchitis, and emphysema are the five main disease categories caused by smoking cigarettes. Such illnesses put significant burdens on the NHS, which we know is already under increasing pressure.’
A version of this article first appeared in our sister publication Healthcare Leader