IBVTA statement on Scottish Government consultation on vape product advertising
The Scottish Government’s proposals on advertising and promotion of vaping products are quite correct in remarking on the harms caused by smoking. However, from the Ministerial Foreword to the section entitled “Using Vapes to Quit Smoking”, much of the basis for this consultation is not rooted in known facts about vaping and e-cigarettes, and particularly in how they pertain to Scotland and the rest of the UK.
The consultation is based on the premise that there are serious doubts over the safety of vaping. However, after more than a decade of research, which includes long term studies on vapers, we now know that vaping is at least 95% safer than smoking, carries just 0.5% of the risk of cancer, and is less addictive than cigarettes. Vaping devices exist alongside, and are helping to denormalise and eliminate, tobacco cigarettes. The IBVTA believes that because of this, the context of the consultation is misleading
The ongoing displacement and denormalisation of cigarettes is hugely beneficial for public health, even before we consider the fact that in Great Britain alone at least 2 million smokers have switched to vaping and then gone on to stop nicotine use entirely.
However, one of the biggest barriers to the continued denormalisation of smoking is misperception. Due to misinformation, which includes studies widely publicised but then withdrawn, many people now wrongly believe that vaping is as bad or worse than smoking.
Restricting advertising on products will further undermine people’s confidence in vaping devices, as it sends the message that there is no benefit in switching from smoking to vaping.
Tobacco forms a significant part of smokers’ daily expenditure, and smoking rates are higher in poorer and disadvantaged communities. By further reinforcing the misperception that vaping is as or more harmful than smoking, regulations that ban advertising put at risk further progress in helping smokers switch to vastly less harmful alternatives and maintain income and health disparities.
Furthermore, by putting restrictions on vaping when both legal and illegal cigarettes are widely available, regulations that help ‘hide away’ vaping will hinder the denormalisation of smoking by vaping and increase the likelihood that young people in these communities will use nicotine in its most harmful and addictive form.
The IBVTA and its members believe that the restrictions suggested are a reaction to some retailers selling vaping devices to people under the age of 18. Adding further restrictions will make no difference to businesses that habitually break the law, but it will hamper legitimate businesses which are helping people to stop smoking.
Therefore, we strongly believe the best solution is for rigorous enforcement of existing age restrictions, prosecuting companies which knowingly sell to people under the age of 18 and banning repeat offenders from selling age restricted products.
In a very real sense, by wanting to impose such misguided restrictions on vape products the Scottish Government would be restricting smoking cessation. And that would be a disastrous move for public health in Scotland.