As the PHE was reportedly unable to deal with the Covid-19 crises effectively due to under-funding, UK ministers have decided to merge it with the NHS and distribute its responsibilities amongst other entities. According to The Sunday Telegraph, Health Secretary Matt Hancock is to announce that a new Institute for Health Protection will become “effective” as of this month.
The PHE has been instrumental in the promotion of tobacco harm reduction via the use of e-cigarettes across the UK.
The chief executive of NHS Providers representing NHS trusts Chris Hopson, said that “years of under-funding” for PHE and more generally public health, have left the country unprepared to deal with a pandemic.
He added that unlike other health bodies such as NHS England, the PHE is an executive agency of the Department of Health and Social Care. “This gives ministers direct control of its activities,” he explained. “So whilst it might be convenient to seek to blame PHE’s leadership team, it is important that the Government reflect on its responsibilities as well.”
With regards to smoking cessation, the PHE has been instrumental in the promotion of tobacco harm reduction via the use of e-cigarettes. Given that it is currently unknown who will be taking over this responsibility, the way that vaping will be promoted from now on is yet to be seen.
The PHE’s 6th independent e-cigarette report
Last April, the PHE was commended by tobacco harm reduction experts for its latest review calling for an end on publishing misinformation about vaping. “Vaping in England: 2020 Evidence Update Summary” was the PHE’s sixth (and probably last) independent e-cigarette report, commissioned by researchers at King’s College London.
It highlighted that despite the alarmist media headlines and unfounded fears about vaping, more former smokers have made the switch from cigarettes to vaping products and that youth uptake remains relatively low. The report added that “false fears” about vaping are preventing many smokers from quitting by switching to vaping – something that the PHE itself has long endorsed.
On the side of tobacco harm reduction
Moreover, when last year’s reports from the US had erroneously started linking EVALI with nicotine vaping, the PHE had reassured e-cig users in the UK that the agency’s stance on vaping remained unchanged.
“Our advice on e-cigarettes remains unchanged – vaping isn’t completely risk free but is far less harmful than smoking tobacco. There is no situation where it would be better for your health to continue smoking rather than switching completely to vaping,” said the PHE on Twitter art the time.