UK parliamentarians urge government to use full potential of vaping as a smoking cessation tool
With a lot of Western countries opting for stricter e-cigarette regulations, there’s a growing concern in the UK that the torrent of misinformation surrounding vaping is harming the nation’s quit rates. In light of that, the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for e-cigarettes has issued a report titled ‘State of the Vaping Nation’, which urges lawmakers to adopt a less strict regulatory policy toward electronic vaping devices. They note that both Public Health England (PHE) and Cancer Research UK (CRUK) have examined e-cigarettes and found them to be safer than their regular, combustible counterparts, with PHE reporting that they could actually be up to 95% safer.
UK Citizens Still Confused About the Benefits of Vaping
Despite numerous recent studies that have confirmed PHEs findings, the perception of vaping as an alternative to smoking is even flimsier than it was before. The APPG on e-cigarettes report cites an ASH study which found that only 20% of adults in the UK correctly identify vaping to be safer than smoking. That’s alarming because, in 2015, 31% of adults knew better, correctly assuming that combustible cigarettes are ‘a lot more harmful’ than e-cigarettes.
What this means is that the war on vaping is working. That is why the APPG is trying to turn the tide by building on successful PHE anti-smoking campaigns. In 2017, PHEs campaign Stoptober included e-cigarettes as a viable smoking cessation tool in their TV ads for the first time.
The Chairman of the APPG, Rugby MP Mark Pawsey, gave a speech while presenting the report at a reception in the Houses of Parliament on November 20, 2017. He warned that current methods are not working for the nation’s eight million smokers and that: ‘it’s up to the government to ensure such campaigns (as PHEs) become the norm, not an exception, so that the UK can fully exploit the public health potential of vaping’.
He continued by saying that current (confusing) messages regarding vaping are putting off people from even trying e-cigarettes as a smoking cessation tool. In fact, those mixed messages might be partially responsible for the declining number of new UK vapers in 2017. In the recent year, the UK vaping scene only grew by 4%. In comparison, in 2013 it grew by 86%; in 2014 by 62%, and in 2015 by 24%.
Public Health England Championing Vaping, Local Councils Still Imposing Bans
Public Health England has been vocally supporting vaping as an alternative to smoking for years, ever since the mentioned landmark study was released. In addition to including e-cigarettes in their ‘Stoptober’ TV ad, they’ve been recommending that local stop-smoking services and health care professionals discuss the benefits of vaping with smokers who want to quit. They even went as far as to suggest that e-cigarettes should be made available by the NHS on prescription.
Unfortunately, the PHE message seems to be falling on deaf ears. British local councils seem to be ignoring the life-saving message of vaping. According to a Freedom Association report, the number of local councils that require vapers to vape in designated areas has actually gone up. In 2016, 112 councils were enforcing this rule. In 2017, we’re talking about 126 councils who treat vapers as if they were smokers, forcing them to designated ‘vaping’ areas, which are frequently shared by smokers.
APPG Parliamentarians Joined by Members of the Vaping Community
The stance of local councils on vaping is symptomatic of the ‘vaping state of the nation’, which is what prompted the All-Parliamentary Group on e-cigarettes to take action before things get out of hand. The members of the APPG were joined by stakeholders in the vaping community – vapers, business owners, associations, and others. They went into detail about the burdensome restrictions that were being placed on the industry, saying that those restrictions are making it difficult to conduct business. Even worse, they are robbing the nation’s smokers of a viable smoking cessation tool that actually works.
John Dunne, a member of UK Vaping Industry Association (UKVIA), had this to say: ‘Smokers who want to switch to vaping should not be faced with unnecessary hurdles that may hinder their transition. For example, arbitrary restrictions on liquid strengths and e-liquid bottle sizes, and advertising bans akin to those for tobacco products make little or no sense from a public health perspective.’
The Ball Currently In Government’s Court
The APPG on e-cigarettes didn’t just tackle lies and misinformation surrounding vaping in their report. They gave clear suggestions as to what the government should do going forward in order to ensure that vaping remains on the table as UK’s number one alternative to smoking.
Those recommendations include:
- A governmental review of vaping regulations currently in place, especially those outlined in the Article 20 of the TPD, which effectively equate vaping to smoking.
- A collaborative government approach when it comes to vaping regulations, one that would include all the stakeholders – the scientific community, vape business owners, vapers, public health experts, and others.
- Guarantees from the Trading Standards that the current vaping regulations will be strictly enforced, considering that the legitimate vaping industry players already invested more than £6m in order to conform to them.
It remains to be seen if these recommendations will be implemented in the near future. For the sake of UK smokers, who are in dire need of accurate vaping-related information, they would definitely be a step in the right direction.