The Minister for primary care and public health, Neil O’Brien, recently announced a curious policy to make the country ‘smoke free’ by 2030.

The answer to the age-old problem is, apparently, to give away one million vapes and offer pregnant women (or should that be pregnant ‘people’ in the current climes?) £400 to quit the habit.

As an ex-smoker (20 a day for 20 years) and an avid vaper, I read the latest government soundbites with interest.

Firstly, the free vapes: Now I see myself as something of a connoisseur. When I started the majority of vapes were horrid little devices where you had to suck so hard your cheeks were permanently sunken as you tried and failed to find a flavour you liked.

East London and West Essex Guardian Series: Brett Ellis is not convinced that Government offering free vapes to smokers will workBrett Ellis is not convinced that Government offering free vapes to smokers will work

On the face of it, a welcome gesture by the government, although no doubt red tape will squeeze the ease of access and culminate in having to fill in a score of forms and numerous trips to the GP, who never have any appointments anyhow, to ascertain the freebie. I would surmise most will give up and continue with the B&H instead…

The most curious aspect of their vague scheme however, is the offering of ‘up to’ £400 to pregnant women to quit the habit.

Unanimously, and rightly, most social media commentors have surmised that to continue smoking when pregnant is a feckless, selfish act which causes no end of harm to the foetus resulting in premature births and no end of health implications that will affect the child, and therefore the NHS, for years to come.

Usually, we pay folk to do things, be it a job or work, but it’s rare to pay them to do nothing or to become inactive. The only precedent I can think of is the EU set aside scheme where large scale farmers became richer by doing nothing with their land with the threat of housing being their bargaining tool.

Should we pay people not to drive to stop injuries and death? How about DIY which is the fifth most common reason for a trip to A&E? Maybe we should ban kitchen knives or rugby or flying or anything else that carries an element of risk and instead gild individuals financially for reducing the burden on the NHS.

The government has enjoyed halcyon decades where they gleefully hoovered up tobacco tax as the NHS morphed into the most inefficient and badly run institution in history. By offering folk money to not do something we are doing little but immersing ourselves in bribery on an epic scale where the system will be abused once more, with no tangible financial effects come the end game.

  • Brett Ellis is a teacher.