Dear Dr Porter,
I am writing to you on behalf of the Independent British Vape Trade Association (IBVTA) with regard to a recent motion passed by the BMA calling for a ban on vaping in public places.
Before going any further, I wish to make it clear that none of our members have any links with the tobacco or pharmaceutical industries.
The ban on smoking in enclosed public places was introduced to benefit the health of non-smokers whose health was put at risk as a result of being in close proximity to smokers. Therefore, any proposal to include vaping within this ban must also be to protect the health of non-vapers.
Is passive vaping dangerous? No. A major scientific study undertaken by Dr Konstantinos Farsalinos and Professor Riccardo Polosa concluded that the “effects of vaping on bystanders are minimal compared with conventional cigarettes.” A review of the available literature conducted last year by researchers at the Drexel University School of Public Health in Philadelphia concluded that “exposures of bystanders pose no apparent concern.” Finally the US Food and Drug Administration conclude that all other substances measured for e-cigarettes were far below allowable levels for human inhalation. They state that levels are so low that it is more hazardous to an individual’s health to breathe the air in any major metropolitan city during rush hour.
Does the vaping in public undermine the smoking ban? No. The Chartered Institute of Environmental Health stated that there is a 99.7 per cent compliance rate with the smoking ban , and they have found no evidence to support the idea that vaping in public is undermining this.
Don’t some companies already ban vaping? Yes, some companies have introduced a vaping ban, but we are seeing a growing number of such companies reversing these bans as new evidence emerges as to the benefits of vaping. As an example, Cambridgeshire Police, following a review of “health fears”, decided to allow their officers to vape at work . Recently, the Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust reversed its ban on vaping in light of evidence that they are less dangerous than smoking tobacco.
Leading Pubco Enterprise Inns have also recently reversed their ban on vaping in their licensed premises. In a further move, Enterprise Inns has signed a new supply deal for its tenants to stock and sell vape products which will form part of their open welcome to the vaping community.
Does vaping in public lead to a renormalisation of smoking? No. Professor Robert West, following his latest research concluded: “Despite claims that electronic cigarettes risk re-normalising smoking, we found no evidence to support this.”
Is vaping a gateway to smoking? No. Deborah Arnott, Chief Executive of ASH, said: “There is no evidence from our research that e-cigarettes are acting as a gateway into smoking.”
Is a public vaping ban a significant move? Yes. In Spain where a ban on vaping in public places has been introduced, there has been a 70 per cent fall in the number of vapers and a 60 per cent decrease in the number of vaping shops . People that had made the switch to vaping are unfortunately now smoking again.
If the BMA succeed in having vaping banned in public places then vapers would be forced to go back to standing with the smokers, re-enforcing their smoking habits and letting them wrongly understand that vaping is the same as smoking, when in reality it is at least 95% less harmful. This will expose them to the dangers of second-hand smoke and penalises a smoker that has taken decisive action to switch to a less harmful product. It is the equivalent of holding an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting in a pub.
Importantly, such a ban would also have a significant impact on vape shops.
With literally thousands of devices and flavours, and multiple nicotine strengths available how does a smoker wishing to switch to vaping know what device, nicotine strength, and flavour is right for them? Initially they do not and that is why vape shops are so fundamentally important.
By visiting a vape shop a smoker benefits not just from the expertise of the vendor, but critically, they are able to sample the different devices, nicotine strengths, and flavours. This allows them to find a device, nicotine strength, and flavour that are right for them. Virtually no smoker walks into a shop picks up a cig-a-like product and successfully switches to vaping, it is more complicated than that. The expert advice and the product sampling are critically important in virtually all successful switch attempts. This means that they need to vape in an enclosed public place.
In conclusion, the rise in the sale of vape products is contributing to a decline in cigarette sales. In the words of Professor Robert West: “What is the problem that requires further regulation?” What public health gain does the BMA hope to achieve with this proposal?
Where bans on vaping in public have been introduced, vaping related businesses have been negatively impacted, but far more importantly, the smoking rates have risen.
With a ban on virtually all vaping related advertising now in place, following the Tobacco Products Directive coming into force, where are smokers to find out about vaping, particularly if it is banned in public? Smokers need to see people vaping in public, they need to be able to go up and speak to vapers so that they can find out further information and then hopefully make the switch to a safer alternative.
In its approach the BMA are going against the precautionary principle as it was originally intended, you are trying to mitigate for a risk that has yet to be proven and in doing so may do more harm than good.
I and some of my colleagues would be happy to meet with you to discuss this subject and other vape related issues.
Independent British Vape Trade Association