Go smokeless says 'nudge unit'
Smokers should be encouraged to take up smokeless nicotine cigarettes in a bid to cut the death toll from related diseases, according to a government-backed report.
The Cabinet Office's behavioural insight team - dubbed the "nudge unit" - believes the new technology has the potential to save tens of thousands of lives, according to a report in The Guardian.
However, the use of the smokeless cigarettes - which are designed to deliver nicotine to the lungs without the harmful toxins and carcinogens in tobacco smoke - is likely to be controversial. They are currently banned in a number of countries.
In its first annual report, the nudge unit - so-called because it is intended to come up with ideas to gently nudge people into changing the behaviour rather more draconian government interventions - argues that the current "quit or die" approach to smoking advice is no longer working.
Instead, it believes that helping smokers who refuse to give up their habit to manage their nicotine addiction could prove more effective, The Guardian said.
The paper quoted the report as saying: "It will be important to get the regulatory framework for these products right, to encourage new products. A canon of behaviour change is that it is much easier to substitute a similar behaviour than to extinguish an entrenched habit (an example was the rapid switch from leaded to unleaded fuel).
"If alternative and safe nicotine products can be developed which are attractive enough to substitute people away from traditional cigarettes, they could have the potential to save tens of thousands of lives a year."
David Halpern, the unit's head, said that its approach to behavioural change was gaining ground in Whitehall. "As with seatbelts and the smoking ban, these ideas were unpopular at first but after a while when you explain them to people, they understand and say, 'Yeah, all right then'," he told The Guardian
"A year in we're much more confident about how well this can work, and the early trials have also made us much more confident about public acceptability. There's no doubt it can save many lives and hundreds of millions of pounds.
"In fact, our problem has become that we have so many inquiries from across Whitehall, we have to turn down many of the requests for help."