U.K. Study to Offer Free E-Cigs to Homeless Smokers

A new study being conducted in the U.K. will offer homeless people free e-cigarette starter packs. The trial is aimed at helping them quit smoking. An estimated 70 percent of homeless people smoke combustible cigarettes, according to research from University of East Anglia (UEA).

homeless man smoking
Credit: Mat Hayward

Homeless centers in five parts of the UK including London, Scotland and Wales will provide 480 contributors with starter kits or care group sessions, according to the BBC. The study will assess if e-cigarettes help participants quit smoking and whether it offers them value for money.

Half of the contributors will be offered the e-cigarettes, while the other 240 people will be allocated to a care group. The project is being led by London South Bank University (LSBU) and University College London. Lynne Dawkins, a professor with LSBU, said that in an earlier trial the kits “worked well” and staff at homeless centers were able to support the study.

The £1.7m project has been funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) and is in collaboration with UEA, Kings College London, Queen Mary University of London, the University of York, Cardiff University, the University of Stirling and the University of Edinburgh. Caitlin Notley, a professor with UEA, said studies suggested e-cigarettes were “more helpful” than nicotine gum or patches when people tried to stop smoking.

“If we find that providing free e-cigarette starter kits helps people to quit, homeless centers could decide to adopt this approach in future, to help reduce the impact of smoking-related diseases on the homeless,” she said.