A trial will investigate whether e-cigarettes could help people experiencing homelessness to quit smoking.
About 70% of people who are homeless smoke tobacco – far higher than the UK average of 14.1%. E-cigarettes are the most popular method used in a smoking quit attempt, with some studies suggesting they are more helpful than nicotine gum or patches and much less harmful than smoking tobacco.
For people on low or no income, however, the price of a starter kit using refillable liquid is as high as £20 upwards. The trial aims to find out whether supplying free e-cigarette starter kits at centres for people experiencing homelessness 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. Sixteen centres will be allocated to the e-cigarette group, while another 16 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.
Dr Sharon Cox said: “People who experience homelessness have extremely poor health and smoking is a major contributor to this. This trial could significantly help people who are usually left behind, giving them 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.”
Professor Lynne Dawkins 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.