IBVTA statement on comments made by the Chief Medical Officer
The IBVTA welcomes Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty’s confirmation that vaping is “definitely safer” than smoking in a Mail Online article on 12th February 2020.
However, we question whether the small increase in youth experimentation with e-cigarettes since 2014 is evidence that vaping businesses are aiming at a youth market, as over the same period there was an even larger increase in adult uptake and this may be a corresponding effect due to wider availability of vape products in general. The number of adult vapers in the UK increased by over 70%, from 2.1 million to 3.6 million over the same period. IBVTA members, in common with all responsible vape product vendors, commit to upholding the law and to only selling to adults.
As the Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Health and Social Care, Baroness Blackwood has noted, although youth experimentation figures might seem high, regular use of e-cigarettes remains low, particularly among young people that have never smoked (1). An ASH survey published in June 2019 (2) found that of 11-18 year olds who had never smoked, only 0.1% vaped more than once a week, and no examples of daily vapers were found among a cohort of 1895 never smokers. 93.8% of those surveyed that had never smoked had either never used e-cigarettes, or were unaware of them, clearly demonstrating that combustible tobacco remains the youth “gateway” to nicotine addiction.
Our members remain vigilant however, and the IBVTA offers guidance to all vaping retailers in the best ways of enforcing a strict age of sale policy for both physical stores and online sales. (3)
The IBVTA rejects the inference that any of its members may be producing flavours of e-liquids with an aim of making any product disproportionately attractive to a youth market to which they actively prevent sales. It is very important to recognize that in an ASH survey of adult vapers published in September 2019, only 25% expressed a preference for tobacco flavoured e-liquid, while 44% preferred fruit or other flavours, and e-liquid manufacturers and retailers are more than aware that in a competitive market, making those flavours attractive to adult smokers is a vital differentiator.
We also note Professor Whitty’s concerns about the effects of vaping for long term users, and would initially direct any concerns to the only medium term study of vaping by people that had never smoked (4). The study found that over 3.5 years no significant differences could be found between those that vaped daily and those that abstained from both vaping and smoking for the same period.
It must never be forgotten that smoking is still responsible for 73,000 deaths and 480,000 hospital admissions in the UK every year, and that vaping is well recognised as an alternative that can only reduce this death toll.