1st November marked the end of Stoptober, a potential turning point for the vaping industry as e-cigarettes were included in the campaign for the first time ever. This was a huge step for the sector but it is important to maintain this momentum and continue to realise e-cigarette’s full potential.
Due to the success of Stoptober and the growing popularity of vaping, on November 1st a group of MPs discussed the topic in the House of Commons. The meeting was led by Gareth Johnson MP (Dartford, Conservative), who fully supports vaping and urged the government to consider vaping as he described e-cigarettes as a “silver bullet” for tobacco control.
Johnson’s concern was that the public perception of e-cigs showed that people are increasingly seeing “vaping as dangerous” when actually “vaping is a lot safer”. He expresses a balanced view and states he’s “not here to Nanny people on their choice to smoke” but explains that this choice should be “informed” and they shouldn’t be obstructed from information about e-cigarettes.
He urges the approach to e-cigarettes to take into account evidence-based research and not to be grouped with the approach taken towards tobacco cigarettes and “Based on the facts available and not on a general dislike of smoking”.
To back this up, Gareth Johnson picked up on key studies and quotes from reputable health organisations including Cancer Research UK, The British Heart Foundation and the British Lung Foundation that express the health benefits of vaping over smoking.
Gareth Johnson describes the TPD (Tobacco Products Directive) as “ludicrous”
Next on the agenda for the Dartford MP was the highly scrutinised TPD (Tobacco Products Directive). He states that the TPD “wrongly includes vaping in its approach” and describes the compulsory warning on e-cigarette packaging that states ‘This product contains nicotine which is a highly addictive substance’ as “Ludicrous”.
He then displays the packaging of Totally Wicked Switz2 Kit as he explains that underneath the warning is another message explaining that this actually isn’t true until it is filled with e-liquid.
More regulatory issues covered where: e-liquids are not available in nicotine strengths higher than 20mg/ml which could be “insufficient for heavy smokers”, and that the advertising regulations are unclear with advertisements on the sides of buses being allowed but TV adverts not allowed which, according to Gareth Johnson is “sending mixed messages, which doesn’t help public perception”.
This led Johnson to ask the minister to look at which of these regulations could be reconsidered come March 2019, when Brexit comes in to force.
Gareth Johnson concluded:
“Vaping is not risk-free but it has been found to be a useful tool for literally millions of people who want to stop smoking. It should therefore be given the recognition it deserves. It has huge potential to save lives and therefore I ask, today, the minister to meet with the vaping industry as soon as his diary allows to discuss how vaping can be best utilised”
All MPs present support the motion to considering vaping
We then heard from the other MPs who were present as the general consensus was that e-cigarettes show great potential and should be explored further through evidence-based research.
The recent news that the science and Technology Committee would launch an inquiry in to e-cigarettes was encouraged by the MPs as they shared the view that further research into e-cigarettes would be beneficial.
One MP challenged Johnson’s theory that vaping is the silver bullet for Tobacco reduction and encouraged further review into stop smoking services such as prescribed NRTs and also wanted further research in to ‘Heat not Burn’.
Further topics featured where that of the gateway theory (which was debunked as having “No real evidence”), e-cigs during pregnancy and the possible long term effects of e-cigarettes. While some of the speakers may have raised these points as a cause for concern, all MPs supported vaping and believed that e-cigarettes deserve to be considered as a tool to help smokers quit.
Steve Brine talks Brexit and IBVTA
Steve Brine is the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Public Health and Primary Care in the UK. He began his response to Gareth Johnson and the other party members by stating that ‘knowledge gaps’ in these ‘novel tobacco products’ must be discussed to,
“include evidence of safety, uptake, health impacts and effectiveness as a stop smoking devices to inform the actions taken going forward and regulating their use”.
Brine then confirmed that the TRPR would be reviewed at the end of May 2021 to evaluate its impact and defended the TPD as he said it ensures sensible regulation but conceded that it’s “not perfect”. In a reply to Johnson’s request for the TPD to be reviewed post Brexit he confirmed he will: “Ink it in (his diary)”.
Brine then explained that the vaping industry is worth almost £1bn for the UK economy and confirmed that the government will continue to work closely with the IBVTA.
The Under Secretary then went on to make it very clear that they would not be working with the UKVIA “due to their links with the tobacco industry” before citing a section of article 5.3 of the World Health Organisation (WHO) framework convention on Tobacco Control which states why they must not do so.
Overall, a positive approach from Steve Brine who concluded by saying:
“it is clear that e-cigarettes can play a very useful role in helping people to quit smoking.”