I'm in two minds about dishing out free nicotine patches. If it hadn't been for the existence of "quit kits" I'd have said it would be hard to justify this latest idea. After all, there are plenty of aids already available from chemists and on-line. It can't be the cost, as it's far cheaper than the tobacco products such potential remedies replace.
Why should we subsidise the quitters from tax money?
However, as the "quit kits" already exist, and if they are not to be scrapped, at least for now, then this limited-time freebie will at least add to the chances of the kits achieving some success, so it's probably better to include them (or coupons for them, in practice) than not to do so. It won't add significantly the the annual budget for the kits.
Beyond this short-term offer, I do wonder whether, in the present economic climate, there is any justification for keeping the "quit kits" idea, at least as a freebie. Perhaps they should be sold in shops or by mail order from suitable outlets.
It really is about time that tobacco products were treated as some kind of special case. They're not, and never have been. They should be treated exactly the same as all other actual drugs, and either all banned or all allowed. Just as long as the rest of us are (somehow) fully protected against, fumes, breath or emanations off clothing, that should suffice. Of course, we do have a problem with the cost to the NHS of all drug-related (and misuse of other substances) illness, and that has become a rod for our own back, in a manner of speaking.
Perhaps one day we shall have no NHS, or at least not in its present form, and we'll all be required to have health insurance as in other countries. That way, the market can make the whole system work without drug addicts costing the public purse as they do in Britain today. No-one could then complain, and perhaps a more libertarian approach might actually work better - provided those safeguards for the rest of us were in place (i.e. no drug consumption in any public or communal area not specifically set aside for the purpose). They might also be required to have private health insurance before they can buy the drugs (yes, I know that's not perfect, as others could buy them on their behalf but it's a start).
I suspect such a trade-off would be acceptable to all sides in the debate, including those who want recreational drugs legalised.