Guest post from Louise Ross – aka @grannylouisa
No Smoking Day is always a busy time for stop smoking services across the country, because teams of frontline staff, in health, schools, colleges and local authorities, ask for our help. They put on events in their own workplaces that complement the work we do all year, aiming to support people who want to stop smoking. This all contributes to reducing the harm done by tobacco, especially in some of the poorest communities we serve.
This year, the Leicester Stop service was busier than ever, as we chose No Smoking Day to launch our new ‘brand’ as the first in the country to become an e-cig friendly service.
During the week, I did several media interviews, including local and regional radio, and for this piece in the Leicester Mercury.
This kind of publicity helps us communicate our new ‘offer’ to local smokers, that we are really keen to support them to stop smoking, whether they want to use licensed products or e-cigs.
One of the other really important communication routes though is the voice of the same frontline staff I referred to earlier – there is a huge hearts-and-minds job to be done with them where e-cigs are concerned, partly because of a massive information gap but also because of the misinformation that circulates via hostile media stories and from otherwise credible sources that claim to be speaking up for the health of the nation.
One such group, which I won’t identify here, asked me for help to do a series of talks about the dangers of e-cigs. They said they didn’t want to dwell on the dangers of smoking, just to raise people’s awareness about how harmful e-cigs are. Once I’d deleted my first response, I re-wrote my reply offering an urgent meeting to provide an up-to-date picture of how important these devices could be for reducing smoking rates among their service users, where whole families of smokers could be introduced to harm reduction through vaping.
I also emphasise, when talking to these audiences, that this is about choice. We still offer all the licensed products that are available, but we now have the options to work with people who want to use their own e-cigs. We can’t supply these, but our E-cig Insight Scheme allows us to give a voucher as a thank-you to those who stop smoking using e-cigs, if they promise to participate in our evaluation at 6 and 12 months.
The other aspect of this that has kept me busy has been the enquiries from other stop smoking service managers who can see the potential of going down this route, and want to know how we set it up.
It’s early days yet, but I hope that by No Smoking Day 2015, many more stop smoking services will be offering a similar package. This could be another step towards truly making smoking history.