Tobacco Control in the UK
Smoking rates in the UK are now at an all-time low thanks to our stance on tobacco control. In 2016, data from the National Office of Statistics showed that 15.5% of adults from the UK smoked. The second lowest smoking rate in the EU. This figure is down from 19.9% in 2010 and correlates with the emergence and insurgence of e-cigarettes.
Action on Smoking and Health study
A 2017 study by Action on Smoking and Health showed that over half of vapers in the UK were ex-smokers. This shows the positive correlation between increased e-cigarette popularity and declining smoking rates. While e-cigarette regulation in the UK is often scrutinised for being counter-productive, there is a growing consensus that e-cigarettes are not only far safer than cigarettes but that they are also having a positive effect on UK smoking rates. The IBVTA states “Vaping is 60 per cent more effective in helping smokers to quit than conventional Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT) products, which have a recognised failure rate of around 90 per cent. In 2013 vaping replaced NRT products as the most popular tool for helping smokers give up. A fact recognised by Public Health England (PHE)”.
The 2017 Stoptober campaign
This is being reflected by initiatives such as the 2017 Stoptober campaign, which included e-cigarettes. Also the ongoing MPs inquiry into e-cigarettes, the inclusion of e-cigarettes in the 2017 Tobacco control plan for England and most recently Public Health England’s ‘Stop smoking with an e-cigarette in 2018’. Public health minister Steve Brine believes “Britain is a world leader in tobacco control”. But will other countries follow the ‘leader’ in terms of e-cigarette endorsement?
Other Countries’ scepticism of e-cigarettes
In the Philippines, a consumer-advocacy group called The Vapers Philippines have urged the Philippine College of Chest Physicians (PCCP) to follow in the footsteps of the British Medical Association (BMA), which recently adopted a new approach to e-cigarettes after previously adopting an anti-vaping position.
Tom Pinlac, president of The Vapers Philippines said: “We call on the PCCP to carefully look at the reasons behind the BMA’s about-face on e-cigarettes. As the speciality organization of Filipino pulmonologists and authority in pulmonary medicine in the Philippines, the PCCP can be a huge influence in the adoption of tobacco harm-reduction measures in the country that could potentially save millions of Filipino lives.”
Vapers in Thailand have spoken out about e-cigarettes and suggested a regulatory framework like the one seen in the UK. E-cigarette regulation in Thailand is extreme. In 2014 a strict ban on importing, exporting, selling and possessing vaping products was put in place. Reports suggest that those caught breaking these laws could face up to 10 years in prison.
Australia vaping ban
Surprisingly, Australia also seems out of touch regarding e-cigarettes. A vaping ban is in place and Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt is adamant that it should stay that way. In October 2017 Mr Hunt said ‘he would never lift the ban on e-cigarettes.’. Dr Colin Mendelsohn, a Tobacco Treatment Specialist in Australia and a vaping advocate. Mendelsohn has been campaigning for a fresh approach to e-cigarettes for a number of years and uses the UK as a basis for many of his arguments.
In August he stated, “The UK seems to have found the right balance in regulating e-cigarettes. E-cigarettes are available to adult smokers to help them quit.”
“The UK has showed that it is possible to get this balance right and that the net benefits of e-cigarettes are strongly positive for public health.”
The list does not stop there, Singapore, Taiwan, Egypt, Belgium and many more countries have banned e-cigarettes. Will these countries continue to ignore the success of e-cigarettes in the UK and continue to focus on The World Health Organisation’s advice, or will we see U-turns from these nations as positive evidence piles up?