UK MPs Given No Doubt That Regulations Around Vaping Need To Be Torn Up And Redone
The latest sitting of the Science and Technology Committee into vaping in the UK met for an extra meeting this week with representatives from the vaping industry and the New Nicotine Alliance giving evidence.
Originally planned for just four sessions chairman Norman Lamb MP felt it was important the industry and indeed the advocacy group the NNA that speaks on behalf of consumers had oral evidence heard.
All the usual topics were covered from the TPD regulations – e-liquid flavourings – short fills – advertising of e-cigarettes – vaping bans in public spaces – possible medical licensing of vape products and yes just when you thought we’d heard it all yet more on that smouldering topic Heat Not Burn.
Those giving evidence were:
- John Dunne, Director, UK Vaping Industry Association
- Fraser Cropper, Chair, Independent British Vape Trade Association
- Sarah Jakes, Chair, New Nicotine Alliance
After watching the session you have to be impressed by Sarah Jakes and despite the NNA’s stance on Heat Not Burn products causing a few ruffled feathers she was very strong in support of the rights of vapers as you’ll see.
John Dunne gave me a cringe moment on the subject of short fills being ‘dangerous’ which may find its way into a newspaper headline near you – bad choice of word maybe but is there more to that stance from the UKVIA?
Whilst Fraser Cropper from the IBVTA was absolutely superb – extremely polished and really slammed into Heat Not Burn products calling them a ‘Trojan Horse’ – excellent!
OK let’s see what they had to say:
On Nicotine Levels the Tobacco Products Directive and A Tax On Vaping
The panel of experts were scathing about some of the more ridiculous aspects of the TPD with Sarah Jakes pointing out that:
The 2ml tank limit – 10ml bottle limit – have no scientific basis for those restrictions at all.
The experts pointed out that generally vapers start on high nicotine and move to lower levels pretty quickly with Sarah saying:
…higher nicotine strengths help keep those people engaged with the products and it helps them with their cravings until such time they can perhaps reduce their nicotine concentrations.
Our worry is it wont be just that 9% of people affected its all those people who are coming in behind us who haven’t yet started on their pathway to being cloud chasers or whatever you’d like to call those of us who use the low nicotine strengths now – those are the people I’m concerned with.
On the sticky topic of any future taxation of e-cigarettes Fraser Cropper quite rightly said:
One of the clear dividends of giving up smoking is of course is the health benefit but there’s a clear financial dividend to a lot of households – there’s a real motivation and incentive.
And if we really do share an agenda to have a smokefree UK using vaping as one of the principal tools we’ve got to keep those incentives for the individuals and there’s no more powerful an incentive for most people is that difference in the cost between the two products and I think to close that gap would be ill conceived.
Sarah Jakes said such move would really be a so called ‘Sin Tax’ and this had consequences removing an incentive for smokers to quit using a cheaper alternative:
I don’t know why you would want to dis-incentivize the use of e-cigarettes.
The Issue Of Short Fills
Again this has been another hot topic with the MPs and more than few eyebrows were raised when John Dunne told the committee:
We are concerned short fills are dangerous given they don’t need to be tested and their investigations have found banned substances used as ingredients.
He said that members of UKVIA did indeed sell short fill e-liquids and those had been tested and no banned substances found…
Given there’s no mandate to test zero nic e-liquids UKVIA want to create a:
Voluntary registration of products very similar to those that are done for the TPD products but again that’s a voluntary scheme.
However he did make a rather good point:
If the size restrictions had been lifted there would be no need for that product to come to the market place [shortfill].
Taking up the point of the ‘dangers’ of short fills Fraser Cropper was the voice of reason pointing out that:
The vast majority of short fill products can be and indeed are safe and tested within the TPD regulations. It may be there are a small minority of those products which are on open sale which are not conforming to the mandate of the TPD.
If you changed the regulation [on bottle sizes] it would go away.
On the Subject Of E-Liquid Flavourings
As many of us vapers know we began with a flavour that closely resembled tobacco but pretty soon moved onto other flavours mainly fruits and its this migration the panel believes is an important aspect of vaping.
Mr Cropper told the MPs:
Vaping offers a lot more variables than smoking does …flavour is probably the key discriminator a really important one that customers choose. I think once you’ve smoked and moved to vaping you recognize just what an unsavoury habit it was actually.
Wise words indeed!
Should E-Cigarettes Be Medicalized?
As I wrote in the piece No…E-Cigarettes Should Not Be Available On Prescription giving out e-cigs on prescription removes the ’empowerment’ a smoker makes when deciding to switch.
In other words by literally doing it for themselves including funding the new vape kit means they have a greater incentive to succeed a point echoed by the panel.
To get an e-cig to the approved for medicinal use stage could cost upwards of £10million and take as much as 3 years and as John Dunne pointed out the vape industry is fast moving and innovative and any medicalized device would be severely outdated and unappealing adding an important point:
Most smokers don’t see themselves as being sick. It is not a disease, it’s an addiction to a substance.
They also like the fact this is a consumer-driven innovation, it doesn’t feel like a medicine, and I think pushing it down that route would have a detrimental effect.
Fraser Cropper was also unconvinced about taking the medical/prescription route:
We’re not aware of what’s actually wrong at the moment there’s 3million vaper who’ve found their way out of smoking through vaping. And that’s done within a background where there’s lots of misinformation and potential lack of clarity as to what vaping really is.
So that’s a remarkable thing and I think the UK should be really proud of that.
The risk is that those unitary devices – the two or three that could be regulated may not meet the widest cohort of needs.
What we would suggest as its been exemplified in recent work is the work that can be done with the experts – the stop smoking services partnering with independent vaping stores and businesses – that is where the true synergy lies actually taking their expertise where they need to to support local businesses.
The Ban On the Advertising of Vape Products Is “Ridiculous”
The general consensus here was yes vape products should have little if any restrictions on them.
Sarah Jakes felt strongly the current ban on vape products being advertised on broadcast media was wrong adding:
There’s a huge problem with perception of relative risk of vaping and smoking. The current regulations restrict advertisers from putting across messages which would be really useful in terms of good public health messaging…
John Dunne was a little stronger pointing out that his associations recent Vapril campaign had cost the NHS nothing:
VApril influenced 200,000 smokers with no money out of the public purse…we don’t want to burden the NHS with extra cost as an industry we’re quite willing to push that public health message.
It’s ridiculous that we as brands can’t say the same thing as Public Health England to re-inforce that message that the UK is really shining compared to the rest of the world.
Fraser Cropper was once again extremely forthright:
I don’t want to be adversarial but what we have achieved is 3million ex smokers or at least 1.5 million ex smokers and 3 million vapers. The greatest weapon to confront tobacco is the vaping sector as far as I’m concerned – we’ve been hugely successful.
To tie a hand behind out back and not allow us to be able to promote our products and to seize even more of those smoking out of the hands of tobacco I think that doesn’t make sense.
Blanket Vaping Bans Are Due To “Ignorance and Prejudice”
Sarah Jakes was in doubt how she and the NNA feels about the current group of vape bans appearing across our towns and cities calling them down to ‘ignorance and prejudice frankly…and laziness’ on the part of businesses – councils and of course transport companies.
She raised the point that many of us face on wide open air railway station platforms where vaping is banned – an issue that really annoys me lol.
Calling for a clearer message and guidelines for companies imposing the bans Sarah said:
We need a model policy so its easy to adapt to their needs so they don’t have to think about it…when it comes to transport there’s no reason why you couldn’t have on carriage on a train where considerate vaping’s allowed.
There’s no point switching to vaping if you can’t vape anywhere!
Love that last line!
Herding vapers to stand with smokers particularly outside pubs was another issue raised by the MPs who were concerned this might tempt vapers back to smoking.
There’s no evidence of that but after 5 years of vaping it doesn’t affect me but in the early days that is definitely a temptation.
It’s the nuance of the whole thing it’s about the message that it sends to people when you send people out to do that.
You’re sending them outside because they’re obviously doing something dangerous and anti-social!
It’s the same as tobacco policy – you’re giving the public right to look down on them and shun them and the unfortunate thing is that is being transferred to vapers.
Clearer guidelines are obviously needed and let’s hope the MPs recommend that to Public Health England.
Heat Not Burn
Once again the whole issue of HNB raised its ugly head however both Sarah and John Dunne kept their thoughts pretty concise lol.
We support Heat Not Burn in so far as it’s a harm reduction product – it has a place in cessation but I can’t see if the BMA and NICE would endorse it for cessation services.
John Dunne said:
We have no viewpoint as we are a vaping association.
Very diplomatic to say the least lol!
However Fraser Cropper was more than happy to give his thoughts on the whole HNB issue:
Its clearly a tobacco product research suggests its 10 times more harmful than vaping products and that we recognize that to some customers and consumers and smokers it may be a viable stepping stone out of smoking.
We should be very careful as to how its positioned – it should not be conflated with vaping its fundamentally different and should be subjected to different regulation and different excise criteria and we would be and are concerned on how the tobacco industry particularly Phillip Morris are orientating their product as this Trojan Horse to associate it to closely next to vaping when it should be distinct and separate.
Absolutely and wonderfully put!
I think this really is the last of the Science and Technology Committee sessions into vaping and e-cigarettes in the UK – this year at least lol.
It was particularly clever of chairman Norman Lamb MP to invite both the vape industry and voice of the vapers to speak – the committee has of course received plenty of written evidence however face to face meetings always have a better impact.
The two representatives from the vaping industry did very well for their members though that use of the word ‘dangerous’ to describe ‘some’ short fills could be misconstrued.
BTW Fraser Cropper came over very well indeed and really is a valuable asset to the world of vaping.
As for Sarah Jakes the chair of the NNA – she spoke extremely well on behalf of vapers and once again showed she’s a formidable ally to have on our side.
What next is the MPs go away – consider all the evidence then give their recommendations to the UK Government on possible future policy on vaping and as soon as that is published we’ll cover it!
As I said in the last article on these sessions the only spanner in the works at the moment is the whole question of Brexit and with the House of Lords stalling on when or even if we should leave Europe – any future UK Government e-cigarette policies will depend on that.
As always watch this space!