Opinion: MP Craig Whittaker reveals how heated tobacco helped him quit smoking after 40 years

Every smoker is different. The reason they smoke and the reason they struggle to quit is different, and their ultimate method of quitting is different too. In my case, after smoking for the vast majority of the last 40 years, I can honestly say that I totally enjoyed virtually every cigarette I had over those decades.

Quitting was never on my agenda, despite persistent nudging from friends and family members.

Imagine my horror, then, when I was presented with a device called an IQOS, just to try out. It was even presented as a bet that I would find the experience similar to smoking a cigarette, but it would be about 90 per cent less harmful for me.

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Just for the record, I do not have any shares in the company, nor do I stand to make any financial gain from the device.

Craig Whittaker speaking during Prime Minister's Questions in the House of Commons, London.Craig Whittaker speaking during Prime Minister's Questions in the House of Commons, London.
Craig Whittaker speaking during Prime Minister's Questions in the House of Commons, London.

The IQOS uses heated tobacco. On March 12, I smoked my last traditional cigarette, and now, after losing the bet, use heated tobacco on a daily basis.

My long-standing smoker’s cough has completely disappeared, and my breathing is now far stronger – I am sure that with the loss of a few more pounds it will become even stronger still.

I support the Government in their embrace of tobacco harm reduction strategies.

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As we have seen, people who want to stop smoking use a variety of methods and aids to do so, whether that is patches, pouches, hypnosis, tablets or even going cold turkey. While for me the IQOS and the heated tobacco system is perfect, many people also use vapes.

While anything is better than smoking for one’s health, there are approximately 3.3 million vapers.

The only problem with vaping is that, according to Action on Smoking and Health, 35 per cent of vapers also smoke cigarettes.

The vape is dual use: people use it in places where they cannot smoke, and they smoke in places where they can. I strongly believe from my own experience that this is because vapes do not mimic the feeling of a cigarette as heated tobacco does.

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I share concerns about youth accessing vaping products. I am pleased that there are studies that have shown that heated tobacco products are less attractive than vapes to younger people who have never smoked.

Additionally, the same research into heated tobacco products shows that they pose significantly less risk to users than traditional cigarettes.

By heating tobacco rather than burning it, those products produce substantially less harmful and potentially harmful chemicals than cigarettes. That makes them less harmful for users – and, of course, they have stopped my long-standing cough.

We see the impact of reduced-risk tobacco products evidenced in some of the most progressive countries in the world.

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For example, in Japan, the first country to launch heated tobacco products, the sale of cigarettes has fallen by an average of 9.5 per cent annually, compared with 1.8 per cent before the introduction of heated tobacco.

As a result, the burden on its healthcare system has also eased considerably, with a statistically significant reduction in rates of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and ischemic heart disease.

We have a positive story to tell here in the UK about our approach to harm reduction. It has made a huge impact on my life, even after just four short months.

Craig Whittaker is Tory MP for Calder Valley. This is an edited version of a recent Parliamentary speech.