Sandwell General Hospital and Birmingham City Hospital now have dedicated vape stores
Vaping products are now sold in two hospitals in the West Midlands, under the Sandwell and West Birmingham Hospitals NHS Trust. A 2018 report by Public Health England (PHE) suggested that e-cigarettes should be available for sale in hospital vape shops. Other initiatives including fines have also been introduced to help clamp down on smoking rates.
Sandwell General Hospital in West Bromwich and Birmingham City Hospital are the two hospitals which now sell vaping products. Both sites have a dedicated vape shop within the hospital building, giving smokers the instant option to switch to a safer alternative.
Why have hospital vape shops now opened?
This proactive development is encouraging and aims to help create smoke-free NHS sites. In 2016, a government article was released titled “It’s time for a truly smoke-free NHS”.
Since then, guidance has been produced to encourage NHS sites to make a concerted effort to reduce smoking rates. Initially, this included smoking bans on hospital premises, but since then more initiatives have been introduced.
On the back of this, in 2018, a PHE report suggested ‘NHS Trusts should ensure e-cigarettes are available for sale in hospital shops’. It’s therefore refreshing to see the Birmingham Trust taking this advice on-board and acting on it quickly. Hospitals are an ideal place to identify smokers and give them firm advice and information about how to quit.
One in four patients occupying hospital beds are reported as being smokers. It was suggested that all smoking patients should be given the aforementioned guidance, which includes information about vaping. However, the physical tools were previously not available on-site for smoking patients to make the switch to vaping. With hospital vape shops, smokers can act on this advice immediately and pick up an e-cig there and then.
What else will change?
Alongside the introduction of vape stores, the Two Midlands hospitals will also introduce smoking fines. According to The Guardian, smokers who are caught lighting up on the hospital grounds could be issued a £50 fine.
Just three months ago, the government called on all NHS trusts to ban smoking on hospital grounds. Around two-thirds of NHS Trusts have now introduced this policy, but it has proven difficult to police.
Alongside the fines, the West Midlands sites have also set up security cameras to help catch on-site smokers. Smoking shelters have also been removed at the majority of hospital sites, with some being replaced by vaping areas. Whilst it may be concerning that almost a third of NHS locations still allow smoking on-site, it’s encouraging to see steps being taken by the majority of trusts to create a smoke-free NHS environment. It’s also great to see vaping being endorsed and utilised within these plans. We look forward to seeing more hospitals adopting sensible pro-vaping approaches. Not only does this directly help to combat smoking rates at the site itself, it also sends out the right message about e-cigarettes.
Chris Green, Totally Wicked smoking cessation lead said, “It’s encouraging to finally see a vape store open it’s doors inside a hospital. There are still around 400,000 hospital admissions each year attributable to smoking. Hopefully more trusts across England will follow this example to give smokers the opportunity to switch and finally kick the habit”.