Replacing tobacco with vapes, but also teaching children about the danger of using vapes, and a crackdown on the illegal sale of tobacco and smoking products is having a positive effect in Swindon.

Those measures are three of the main planks of Swindon Borough Council’s Tobacco Reduction strategy – and members of the authority-run Health & Wellbeing Board received an update from public health specialist Divya Bassi.

She said the council had recently been successful in getting a grant to help people quit tobacco by using less-harmful vapes instead: “The public health team recently submitted applications for the Swap to Stop Scheme – where the government is providing a million e-cigarettes to encourage smokers to quit smoking by embracing vaping as a less harmful option.

“Applications were submitted for ongoing provision of vapes within the smoking in pregnancy service provided by Great Western Hospital, for a GWH staff and for provision by community stop smoking services across Swindon.

“All applications were successful and the scheme will begin to be rolled out across Swindon in early 2024.”

But as the use of e-cigarettes and vapes by young people has increased nationally, the public health team is also trying to address that with a private company Chameleon Personal Development Education being commissioned to deliver workshops to Year 7 students – 11- and 12-year olds – in the borough’s secondary schools designed to discourage youngsters from taking up both smoking and vaping.

Ms Bassi told councillors and other members of the board that the council took a “zero-tolerance approach to catching traders selling illegal tobacco and other smoking or vaping products: “A joint operation undertaken in August 2023 saw enforcement teams seize illegal tobacco and nicotine products worth approximately £40,000 within Swindon.

“Led by Swindon Trading Standards, with assistance from HMRC, the operation also involved Swindon South Neighbourhood’s Policing Team, and three tobacco detection dogs.”

Ms Bassi said the actions had seen the rates of smoking in Swindon drop from the previous levels of 12.5 per cent across the whole population of the borough – but it was still higher than the 2028 target of five per cent.

Councillor Lawrence Elliott said: “This is excellent work to reduce tobacco consumption and can only be applauded. This will benefit the people of Swindon for years to come.”

The council’s cabinet member for communities and joint working Councillor Grant asked: “Is it because of the strategy or because rates of smoking are coming down nationally?”

Ms Bassi said: “There is a downward trend nationally we but we are seeing it come down in the priority groups in Swindon and using the whole systems approach where people come into contact with the borough council.”