IBVTA responds to APPG recommendations
The All Party Parliamentary Group on Smoking and Health have today published their recommendations for the Tobacco Control Plan 2021 in a report titled “Delivering a Smokefree 2030”.
The report makes 12 recommendations across three separate areas of focus; Setting course for a Smokefree 2030, Levelling up through targeted investment and Shaping the Consumer Environment. They include:
- Legislating to make tobacco manufacturers pay for a Smokefree 2030 Fund to bring an end to smoking
- Taking our place on the world stage as a global leader in tobacco control.
- Setting interim targets for 2025, and updating our strategy if we are not on track to a Smokefree 2030 by then
- Ensuring all smokers are advised to quit at least annually and given opt-out referral to Stop Smoking Services.
- Targeting support to give additional help to those living in social housing or with mental health conditions, who have high rates of smoking
- Legislating to put health warnings on individual cigarettes, quit messaging on pack inserts and close other loopholes in existing regulations.
- Making the route to medicinal licensing fit for purpose to allow e-cigarettes to be authorised for NHS prescription.
- Consulting on raising the age of sale for tobacco from 18 to 21
The IBVTA broadly welcomes the aims of the report’s recommendations but would challenge some aspects of the finer detail.
The coronavirus pandemic has indeed thrown a spotlight on the devastating impact of inequalities and the report rightfully points out that smoking is likely to continue to cause more deaths annually than Covid-19 caused in 2020.
It is very positive therefore that the Salford Swap-to-stop pilot scheme, which chose to work with an IBVTA member, is highlighted as an example of good-practice in how to deliver a targeted smoking cessation scheme, using vaping. The increased success rate in quitting meant that the Salford pilot was less than half the cost per quit of the standard stop smoking service offer including NRT. The report points out that its success could be replicated if these programmes were given adequate government funding.
It is also very positive that the report calls for the UK to take its place on the world stage of tobacco control. There is a lot of success to be proud of in the UK; our smoking rates, thanks to the proactive and positive position the government has taken on vaping, are at their lowest.
For this success to continue, there must continue to be a thriving UK vaping industry which is not controlled by tobacco companies. In the first Global Tobacco Industry Interference Index, published in 2019, the UK was rated No. 1 in the world for the work we do to protect public health policy from tobacco companies. Last year we slipped to fourth position.
Vaping did not come from the tobacco industry; it was developed and fought for outside that industry by forward-thinking entrepreneurs, and has always been consumer-led. Many of the hurdles and restrictions the independent vape sector and vapers have had to fight against over the years were born from and lobbied for by the tobacco industry.
Were tobacco companies to be allowed to advertise their own reduced harm products in cigarette pack inserts, or restrictions on the packaging and flavour names of vaping products be introduced for example, the tobacco industry would be at an advantage. We would therefore call for smoking cessation messages on cigarette pack inserts to be completely brand neutral.
On the issue of attractiveness of vaping to young people, the report cites the evidence that even though regular vaping is extremely rare among this age group, the ones who do try it are not doing so because of its flavours or because they find the packaging attractive. Somewhat surprisingly, this evidence is then used as justification to call for restrictions on flavour names and packaging.
We do however welcome greater oversight of non-nicotine containing products and have already begun constructive engagement with government and regulators on how this could best be introduced.
Medicinal licencing of an e-cigarette is beyond the reach of independent businesses. We have already seen one tobacco company take a product through a substantial part of the process to obtain a medicinal marketing authorisation for a vaping product, although ultimately the project was dropped rather than brought to market. If the tobacco industry were allowed to take over vaping, they would not share the same appetite for reducing sales of cigarettes, given the profitability of their more harmful products. Their fiduciary responsibilities ultimately mean that they cannot question what is the right thing to do, as they are obliged to prioritise profits and share price.
The report draws attention to probably the biggest challenge faced by vaping reaching its full potential, that of public misperceptions about its relative safety compared to smoking. The proportion of current smokers that have never tried e-cigarettes who believe they are more or equally harmful as cigarettes increased from 27% in 2019 to 42% in 2020. The proportion of smokers using e-cigarettes in their most recent quit attempt fell from a peak of 40% in 2017, to only 26% in 2020.
The IBVTA welcomes then the call for greater effort and leadership in correcting these misperceptions, although we may differ with the conclusions by the APPG in some aspects of the finer detail of how it might be achieved. Currently, IBVTA members cannot adequately communicate to smokers the purpose of their products. Were advertising restrictions amended in a way that allowed healthcare professionals to promote vaping, and for vape retailers to adequately describe and promote their own products in their own retail channels, it would be a cost-neutral measure to implement. The IBVTA has expanded on these views more broadly in our submission to the post implementation review of the current regulations.
Gillian Golden, IBVTA Chief Executive, said: “Once again we see a call to government that the UK’s most successful and cost effective way to quit can contribute to saving lives and reducing smoking. We look forward to continuing our engagement with the Department of Health & Social Care and other government stakeholders to support their smokefree goals.”
Note: All-Party Parliamentary Groups (APPGs) are informal groups of Members of both Houses with a common interest in particular issues. Their work is usually supported by a secretariat and in the case of the APPG on Smoking and Health, this secretariat support is provided by Action on Smoking and Health (ASH). APPG reports are not official publications of the House of Commons or the House of Lords, but rather recommendations to Government on specific policies and issues.