New study: Could e-cigarettes help homeless people to quit smoking?

The National Institute for Health Research has awarded a £1.7M grant to London South Bank University (LSBU) to conduct a trial to help those experiencing homelessness to quit smoking 

The research project is led by Lynne Dawkins, Professor of Nicotine and Tobacco Studies from the Centre for Addictive Behaviours Research at LSBU’s School of Applied Sciences and Dr Sharon Cox, Senior Research Fellow at UCL’s Department of Behavioral Science and Health.

The study is supported by seven other academic research partners including DECIPHer‘s Dr Rachel Brown, as well as researchers from King’s College London, Queen Mary University of London, the University of East Anglia, the University of York, the University of Stirling and the University of Edinburgh.

According to a recent LSBU press release announcing the study, Around 70 per cent of people who are homeless smoke tobacco – far higher than the UK average of 14.1 per cent. 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. LSBU researchers have set up this trial to find out whether supplying free e-cigarette (EC) 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, South-East of England and the East of England. Sixteen centres will be allocated to the EC group, while another 16 will be allocated to a usual care (UC) group. The full research trial will include 480 participants, with 240 in each group and 15 from each centre.

Dr. Brown says: ‘This is a novel study, targeting a group with high  levels of vulnerability and for whom access to smoking cessation is often limited. It challenges assumptions that people experiencing homelessness can’t or don’t want to quit smoking, which evidence shows is often inaccurate. I look forward to working with such a skilled and experienced team on this important work’.  

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