Javed Khan’s review to deliver the Government’s Smokefree 2030 ambition has been published and makes it clear that e-cigarettes are ‘critical’ to meeting these ambitions.

The Khan review, requested by Secretary of State for Health and Social Care Sajid Javid, aimed to investigate where the UK stands with regards to the Smokefree 2030 ambition, and offer a blueprint for the bold action needed to make it a reality. Javed Khan OBE, former chief executive of the children’s charity Barnardo’s, was chosen to lead the review.

Throughout the review Khan lays out his recommendations for the most impactful interventions for tackling smoking in the UK, many of which centre around encouraging smokers to make the switch to e-cigarettes.

‘Vaping products the most popular and effective aid’

The review, aptly titled ‘Making smoking obsolete’, makes it clear that e-cigarettes could play an absolutely crucial role in making Smokefree 2030 a reality, and that tackling the misinformation around the risks of vaping in comparison to smoking is an important first step.

Public Health England have found e-cigarettes to be 95% less harmful than smoking, and many public health authorities encourage smokers to make the switch from smoking to vaping.

Javed Khan, former chief executive of Barnardo’s, explains:

‘In cigarettes, we know that it is not the nicotine that kills you but the other thousands of toxic chemicals such as tar and carbon monoxide. Vapes give smokers the nicotine they crave but protects them from the toxins they would inhale from a cigarette.’

Vaping products are both the most popular and most effective stop smoking aid currently available, and are a cheaper option than many of the other nicotine replacement therapies available.

However, the review found that only 10% of quits in stop smoking services were made using an e-cigarette as a stop smoking aid, suggesting that they are not yet being used to their full potential within these services.

One of the suggested actions is to ensure that healthcare professionals are provided with accurate and consistent information on the benefits of switching to vaping to help encourage more smokers to ‘swap to stop’ and help dispel the longstanding myths around their harm. Khan calls for an investment of £70 million into stop smoking services to ensure that high quality support is accessible to all smokers, and that effective treatment such as e-cigarettes are included within the services.

Khan advises:

‘Clinicians should follow NICE guidance on stopping smoking, which states that "healthcare professionals can recommend vaping devices, as a means to help patients stop smoking"’

The review also recommends more Government messaging and media and TV campaigns encouraging smokers to make the quit and highlighting the benefits of e-cigarettes as an effective quitting tool. This also includes allowing vape shops to promote e-cigarettes as a less harmful alternative to smoking.

There is also the suggestion of a VAT reduction on vaping products in line with other nicotine products. It is hoped that this could offer further incentive for smokers to make the switch to vaping.

‘Vapes should be a 'quit tool' not a 'cool tool'’

While the review identifies the role vaping can play in making smoking obsolete, it also highlights the importance of ensuring that e-cigarettes do not become appealing to young people. The strict regulation implemented in the UK has helped us ensure that e-cigarette use among young people and never smokers has remained extremely low, with well over 90% of all UK vapers being adult current or ex-smokers.

In line with this, Khan recommends that the school health curriculum should be updated to include discussions on nicotine, vaping, and its age restrictions. This topic could be easily adapted into the curriculum alongside the current guidance on smoking and alcohol.

Legal smoking age increase

One of the most radical policies proposed within the review is an increase to the legal smoking age, similar to that of the policy being announced in New Zealand.

The report suggests that the age to legally purchase tobacco should be increased by a year every year in the hopes of creating a smokefree generation. Tobacco is the single leading cause of preventable illness and death in the UK, and during a media briefing on the review Khan expressed the need to stop the tobacco industry “preying on children and young people”.

England’s chief medical officer Chris Whitty shared this sentiment, stating:

“The cigarette industry lobbyists will try to make this a debate between health and freedom. It is the most dishonest debate you can possibly imagine. The majority of people who are smokers wish to quit, but cannot because the cigarette industry has addicted them at a very young age. They cannot. That is not freedom of choice. If you’re in favour of freedom, you absolutely are not in favour of this addictive industry that kills so many people.”

By increasing the legal age every year this could prevent countless young people from starting a smoking habit that could eventually lead to their death.

Discussing the report, Javed Khan described the need for bold action if we are to achieve the Smokefree 30 goal:

“A smoke-free society should be a social norm – but to achieve this we must do more to stop people taking up smoking, help those who already smoke and support those who are disproportionately impacted by smoking.”

It is fantastic to see the vital role that e-cigarettes can play being acknowledged so clearly in this report, and we hope to see these recommendations reflected in the Government’s upcoming health disparities white paper and in future policies.

At a glance

  • Javed Khan’s review ‘Making smoking obsolete’ was released on Thursday 9th June 2022 and highlights the ‘critical’ role that e-cigarettes can play in helping smokers quit
  • It recommends that healthcare professionals should be provided with accurate information on the benefits of vaping as a stop smoking aid in order to effectively recommend them to patients
  • The review highlights the need for information on vaping and the risks of nicotine to be incorporated into the curriculum alongside information on smoking and alcohol
  • Khan recommends that the legal age to purchase tobacco products should be raised by a year every year to create a smokefree generation


gov.uk 09/06/2022
ash.org.uk 09/06/2022
Public Health England 2015
theguardian.com 09/06/2022