Today, the Department of Health published the new Tobacco Control Plan for England. IBVTA welcomes the recognition given to the significant contribution vaping is making to reducing smoking rates across the UK. IBVTA also welcomes the positive stance taken towards vaping in public places and places of work. We hope organisations in both the public and private sectors will take note of this.
Vaping represents a market-based, user driven, public health insurgency. That is why it is so successful. No taxpayers’ money has been spent, yet smokers are stopping, switching, and cutting down through the use of vape products. It was therefore concerning to see the new Tobacco Control Plan for England referring to “medicinal regulation for e-cigarette products” and making vape products available on NHS prescription. Far from encouraging vaping IBVTA is concerned that this would have the opposite effect.
The UK’s independent vape industry has a global reputation for quality and innovation. This industry is willing to shoulder its responsibilities and can and should be trusted to deliver the full potential of vaping. However, this tremendous opportunity will only be realised if the regulatory and fiscal environment in which the industry operates is proportionate. It is therefore welcome that the new Tobacco Control Plan for England commits the Government to reviewing the Tobacco and Related Products Regulations once the UK has left the EU.
As a responsible trade association, IBVTA is not opposed to regulation. Some aspects of the TRPR, namely the testing and notification of e-liquids are sensible. However, restrictions on bottle and tank sizes, restrictions on nicotine strengths, and advertising bans, far from making vaping more attractive to smokers or even less harmful compared to smoking, instead make vaping less attractive, more expensive, and will have no impact on the limited risk associated with vaping.
Reviewing these regulations, at the earliest opportunity, will allow the Department of Health to develop a new fit-for-purpose and proportionate regulatory regime that allows vaping to achieve its full potential.
Despite the success of vaping to date, 7.2 million people still smoke, and the latest ASH/YouGov survey, in 2017 found that the proportion of smokers who thought vaping was just as, or more harmful than smoking increased from 9 per cent to 22 per cent. It was therefore disappointing that the new Tobacco Control Plan for England did not contain measures to redress the misinformation about vaping, including sensational and inaccurate press coverage or overinterpreted studies, which are warping public perceptions of the risks posed by vaping, and deterring smokers from switching. If the Department of Health really does want to seriously reduce the number of smokers in England then it needs to take a significantly more proactive and public facing stance in favour of vaping.