Researchers at the University of East Anglia will be handing out e-cigarette starter packs to people who are homeless to help them quit smoking, as part of a new trial.
The UEA team are part of a £1.7 million national trial, led by London South Bank University (LSBU) looking at whether e-cigarettes could help people experiencing homelessness to quit smoking.
The research has been funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR), demonstrating a real commitment to gathering evidence to reduce tobacco related harm.
The UEA team will collaborate with the NHS Vulnerable Adults Service in Norwich on the project.
Prof Caitlin Notley, from UEA’s Norwich Medical School, said: “We know that around 70 per cent of people who are homeless smoke tobacco - this is far higher than the UK average of 14.1 per cent.
“We also know that e-cigarettes are the most popular method of quitting smoking, with some studies suggesting they are more helpful aids than nicotine gum or patches and much less harmful than smoking tobacco.
“Electronic 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.”
For people on low or no income, the price of a starter kit is high at around £25. The trial will investigate whether supplying free EC starter kits at centres for the homeless, could help to combat this problem.
The nationwide study will be conducted in 32 centres across five UK regions - Scotland, Wales, London, the South-East of England and the East of England.
While half of the centres will be allocated to the electronic cigarette group, the other half will be allocated to a usual care group. The full research trial will include 480 participants, with 240 in each group and 15 from each centre.
The research project is led by LSBU and UCL in collaboration with UEA, Kings College London, Queen Mary University of London, University of York, Cardiff University, University of Stirling, University of Edinburgh.
Professor Lynne Dawkins from LSBU said: “In our earlier, smaller research trial, we found that e-cigarette starter kits worked well for participants. Staff at homeless centres were able to support the study and we collected the data we needed to conduct a full trial.
“This grant award from the National Institute for Health Research, will fund a much-needed larger trial, looking at whether supplying e-cigarettes to smokers attending homeless centres could help them to quit - and whether it offers them value for money. This is the first study of its kind in the world to look at trialling this method.
“If we find that providing free e-cigarette starter kits helps people to quit, homeless centres could decide to adopt this approach in future, to help reduce the impact of smoking related diseases on the homeless.”
Dr Sharon Cox, UCL Behavioural Science & Health, said: “People who experience homelessness have extremely poor health and smoking is a major contributor to this. This trial could give people who are usually left behind the chance to quit smoking. The English government has an aim to reduce smoking rates to less than 5% by 2030, so this trial is essential in achieving this aim. We are grateful to the funder for their support.”
This study/project is funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR132158). The views expressed are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of the NIHR or the Department of Health and Social Care.