Staff from the public health team as well as elected councillors will head to four vape shops in the southwestern city on 9th March. There they will attempt to convince interested smokers to convert to e-cigs by offering free carbon-monoxide tests to demonstrate the level of the chemical in smokers’ bodies.
“As a former smoker I know how difficult it can be to give up, but I’m so glad I did. As a council we’re absolutely committed to helping people stop – there’s really no better time to quit than today,” said Bristol councillor Fi Hance, who is also assistant mayor for neighbourhoods with responsibility for public health.
To increase the impact of the campaign, the council is also attempting to combat some common e-cig misconceptions held by the public. These include the idea that e-cigarettes are as bad for health as conventional cigarettes, that they are dangerous and often blow up, that they may re-normalise smoking, and that they may encourage youth uptake of conventional tobacco.
The myth that e-cigarettes are as harmful as tobacco products arose because of a reaction some people had to flavourings, said Becky Pollard, Bristol city council director of public health.
Incidents involving e-cig explosions are very rare, she added, and most are due to cheap chargers – a problem that can be avoided.
Moreover, most e-cigs do not look like tobacco products and there is no evidence that e-cigarettes are undermining falling smoking rates in the UK. In fact, they may be contributing to declining rates among young people, Pollard said.
The council believes that vaping can triple the chances of a smoker successfully quitting when combined with attendance at local stop-smoking services. It estimates that around 21% of the city’s population smokes, and is attempting to provide the widest possible coverage of stop-smoking services by offering help in languages that include Somali, Arabic, Urdu, Punjabi, Hindi, Gujarati, Polish, Romanian and Bangladeshi.
What This Means: Bristol’s approach is a refreshing change from the frequently over-cautious reaction of local authorities where e-cigarettes are concerned. Indeed, the city has previously demonstrated an ability to differentiate between tobacco products and vapour products – a distinction that has escaped some at significantly higher levels of government.
– Freddie Dawson ECigIntelligence staff
Photo: Luke Andrew Scowen