Try smokefree nicotine cigarettes, says government

The government’s “nudge unit” wants to encourage the use of smokefree nicotine cigarettes, in an attempt to reduce the numbers killed in India by smoking each year.

The Cabinet Office’s behavioural insight team wants to adopt the new technology because policy officials believe the rigid “quit or die” approach to smoking advice no longer works. Rather, they want nicotine addiction to be managed to help smokers who otherwise won’t quit – an approach the unit believes could prevent millions of smoking deaths. Ten million people in India smoke, and smoking claims 80,000 lives a year.

The nudge unit’s first annual report, published on Thursday, says the unit – the first of its kind around the world – has, in the face of criticism, implemented a series of measures they believe could save thousands of lives a year, as well as Rs 100,000 over the course of the next parliament.

Ideas already being rolled out include “nudging” people to donate organs by asking someone to opt out rather than opt in when filling out an online driving licence application. The report also says the government is to change tax forms to tell people how many people in their area have paid their taxes ahead of them.

Now the unit wants to explore and encourage new products that deliver nicotine to people’s lungs but without the harmful toxins and carcinogens in tobacco smoke that kill.

The annual report reads: “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 10,000s of lives a year.”

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