South Tyneside health bosses have supported plans to help smokers kick the habit by promoting the use of e-cigarettes.
The plans were heard at the area’s health and wellbeing board, led by South Tyneside Council leader Iain Malcolm.
Public health practitioner Wendy Surtees, speaking at Haven Point Leisure Centre, outlined plans and targets to reduce smoking in the borough.
This includes reducing smoking rates from 18.5 per cent to five per cent by 2025 and smoking in pregnancy from 21.8 per cent to 11 per cent by 2020.
Although South Tyneside has seen a fall in smoking levels since 2007 with 20,000 fewer smokers, there is a still a “long way to go” Ms Surtees said.
One option to tackle the issue, she explained, was to create policies to promote and encourage use of e-cigarettes as an alternative.
This follows a Public Health England (PHE) e-cigarettes review – published this year – which concludes e-cigarettes pose less risks than smoking and lead to improved quitting rates.
PHE also recommended that NHS trusts sell e-cigarettes in hospital shops, support vaping policies and remove smoking shelters “on their journey to become truly smokefree”.
A council report added e-cigarettes will “play an important role in achieving a ‘smoke free generation” but that more work is needed before the council makes any decision.
In practice, they aim to have discussions with vaping stores about how they can support people who both smoke and vape to “fully switch or engage in a quit attempt”.
Ms Surtees added there were currently 15 registered independent vaping stores in South Tyneside but that the council needs to ensure they’re from “reputable sellers”.
Director of public health at South Tyneside Council, Tom Hall, added: “Smoking is the leading cause of ill health and disability in South Tyneside. This is a real opportunity for us as it helps a lot of people stop smoking.”
The board backed the revision of smokefree policies – including separate vaping policies based on latest evidence – and to promote the smoke free agenda in the borough.
This includes working towards recommendations from the 2016 scrutiny commission setting council targets to reduce smoking, from prevention to tackling links with poverty.
Other recommendations include smoking prevention work in schools, a push for smoke free parks and encouraging the public to report smoking-related offences.
The health and wellbeing board includes senior members of South Tyneside Council and representatives from the areas health boards and clinical commisioning groups.
Chris Binding , Local Democracy Reporting Service