A House of Commons Health and Social Care Committee was held on Wednesday 28th of June discussing Youth Vaping.

youth vaping hsc committee

You should be able to watch the footage here on the Parliament TV page.

The agenda is here and the comment from the Chair is quoted below…

“While vaping has benefits for those who want to give up cigarettes, this committee is particularly concerned at the marketing practices of the vaping industry with products that appeal to children under 18 with use of flavours and bright colours.

“We’re calling in representatives of the vaping industry to question them about the rise in youth vaping and who is responsible for it. Brands that are popular with children can cost less than £3 for a disposable, a pocket money price.

“We’ll also be considering measures that the government is proposing to reduce the rise in vaping among under 18s and how effective they might be.”

You can also view the full transcript here in PDF Format.

The general vibe was very negative towards vaping and some absolute downright lies being quoted as fact.

This is all a box ticking exercise due to the media shitshorm created about vaping being dangerous and the fallout about disposable vapes.

I suppose the government needed to show they were taking notice – I even have friends who vape who are slating disposables due to teenagers getting hold of them.

Really – I just don’t know what to say because they shouldn’t be able to.

You will see at the end of this article some of the reactions from Twitter and it’s fair to say a lot of vape advocates are quite angry about how this committee was held.

I will just summarise some of the points that caught my attention as the transcript is 38 pages long and I am not doing a copy paste of the lot!

Speakers

The Health & Social Care Committee was chaired by Steve Brine who was the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Public Health and Primary care from June 2017 until March 2019. He is currently the Conservative MP for Winchester and Chandler’s Ford.

Steve Brine
Steve Brine Official Portrait https://members.parliament.uk/member/4067/portrait

The following were called up to give evidence…

First Panel

  • Deborah Arnott – Chief Executive of Action on Smoking and Health (ASH).
  • Dr Helen Stewart – Officer for Health Improvement at Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health.
  • Laranya Caslin – Principal at St George’s Academy, Sleaford

Second Panel

  • John Dunne – Direct General of the UK Vaping Industry Association (UKVIA)
  • Marcus Saxton – Chairman at Independent British Vape Trade Association (IBVTA)

I think it is great to see representatives of the Vaping industry on the panel.

First Panel Content

health committe first panel

Anti-Vaping

Sadly the whole vibe was pretty anti-vaping with one participant Paulette Hamilton asking the panel this…

“Rather than encouraging people to vape rather than smoke, do you not think it would be better to ban the whole lot, whether it be the ones that you can refill or the single-use ones, until you get proper regulation and the trading standards bit is sorted out?”

One of the panel members Dr Helen Stewart also came out with some beauties – which I will quote below…

“Vaping was introduced in the UK in 2007, so it has only been around for about 16 years. Ten years ago, they could not possibly have known the long-term health effects of vaping. We are certainly seeing an increase in asthma, wheeze and bronchitis-type presentations that can be linked to vaping. There is a lot of emerging evidence about other potential complications. The reality is that we do not have enough long-term data. We would much rather ban them now than wait for the 30 years it took to understand the effect of smoking, when the chicken has flown the coop. It is too late to roll back at that point.”

“There has been some suggestion of young people developing something called popcorn lung, secondary to vaping. Again, it is small numbers, so it is difficult to draw wide conclusions from them, but it is enough to make us very concerned. I work in an emergency department. When children, or unfortunately toddlers, get hold of them and drink them, the toxicity is incredible. We see some very sick children. If it is that toxic when you ingest it or breathe it in, it has to raise concerns”

POPCORN LUNG hahahahaha – from a Doctor – just in case you want proof this doesn’t exist I will pass you on to Cancer Research UK to prove it.

Sensible Responses

Thankfully Deborah Arnott was the grown up in the room on the first panel and she is the Chief Executive of ASH UK. She did really well to get across a positive message about vaping in quite a hostile situation.

Some quotes from her are below…

“In Australia, they have done what you suggested. You can only get vapes on prescription. What has happened to smoking rates? They have gone up. Does it make any sense to ban something that we know is less harmful? The 95% is far too specific, but we know that the biomarkers of toxicity from vaping compared to smoking are 95% lower, roughly that order of magnitude. As people have said, you have to wait until you know the longer term, but there is a significant reduction in the level of toxicity.”

“If you ban them completely, Paulette, you will just drive it into the illicit market and that is where you cannot control it. That is why we want to see an excise tax and why we want to see HMRC and Border Force putting effort into preventing illegal vapes flooding on to the UK market. Banning them is not going to help. They banned smoking in Bhutan and smoking rates among children went up. In Australia they banned vapes, except for getting them on prescription, and their smoking rates have gone up year on year when ours have gone down. I do not think banning is the solution. We need to properly regulate”

“My answer would be that we need proper enforcement. That is not just relying on trading standards. We need to bring a bigger set of organisations to bear—the ones that have the money and the capacity. HMRC has fiscal crime liaison officers overseas who examine what is going on in the illicit market and stop cigarettes from actually ever reaching our borders. It would be great if they could do the same thing for vapes. By just banning them, they will go underground and there will be an even bigger problem with quality.”

Laranya Caslin is the headtecher at St George’s Academy, Sleaford and although she has issues with her pupils vaping – which I cannot disagree with, she also acknowledged that vaping was useful for adult smokers…

“A significant proportion of the youngest children in the school who are vaping are already obtaining them via means other than going into a shop that follows the regulations properly, checking ID and so on. It is looking for all the unintended consequences and making sure that we do not solve one problem and create another. It is difficult, but the ready availability to children who are under age, and significantly under age, is a real concern. Pricing the youngsters out of the market would be a great first step, at the very least. ”

“If we roll back to when I was at school in the 1980s, probably about 19% of people smoked. I think we are all crystal clear that vaping is better than smoking—there is no debate over that—but the rate at which the number of teenage vapers is increasing is significant. It is difficult to get hard data on that. My head student team and the police concur that it is around one in four, and increasing. Where does that stop?”

Sadly there were a few let downs in her responses though…

“Children can be quite dismissive of the reasons against. In the information assemblies that we have had, where popcorn lung and brain development are mentioned, there are more children thinking twice, but I certainly feel that we have not hit a peak with teen vaping on its current trajectory. I do not know where it will peak, so that is a worry for me.”

“Many lovely students, who I do not think would ever dream of smoking or having a sneaky cigarette, have been drawn into vaping much more easily because it is perceived to be safe and because of the chat around the flavours and being “in”, and part of the peer-to-peer conversations you need if you are to be in that crowd. Those are my worries.”

Second Panel Content

This panel had John Dunne and Marcus Saxton coming under fire. As both represent the vaping industry they had a pretty hard time and it is a bit uncomfortable to read.

marcus john

The chair started with the following – directed at John…

“You heard the evidence that has been given this morning. You have heard from a headteacher who talked about the impact on schooling, alarms being set off and exam impacts. You have heard about children with asthma. You have heard about children being retentive and not going to the toilet at school. We have heard quite a lot of interesting stuff this morning, haven’t we? ”

“Does it make you feel good about your industry? “

John’s response was…

“No. Actually, this is something that we have been pushing for for well over three years. One of the issues that we have highlighted is—it was talked about earlier on—is that these products are being sold in inappropriate locations. There are also very few financial penalties for retailers caught selling to minors. A recent study done by one of our members, Arcus Compliance, found that very few trading standards groups are implementing fines. As an example, in a group of 12 cities with 5.5 million people, the combined fines over three years totalled £2,100. We also had a case recently where a court fined a store £26 for selling vape to a 14-year-old. As an association we have called for extreme action to be taken on that. We want to see fines increased to a minimum of £10,000 per instance. We want to see all vape retailers and distributors licensed to sell these products. That licensing has to include robust age verification processes and that they only stock legitimate licensed products. We think these are reasonable things for the industry to do. If the industry is not going to object to it, I do not see why the Government cannot do it. If you look at what Ireland did recently, it is bringing in a Bill that will bring in €4,000 fines. It is tacking on a prison sentence for retailers selling to young people. I think that is a huge step forward. It is something that the Government should look at here.”

Attacking Advertising

Questioning Marcus Saxton Dr Johnson asked…

“Marcus, you said at the beginning that you are the chief executive of Totally Wicked.”

“We know that people look up to footballers. Little lads and little girls look up to footballers. They watch them running around in their shirts and they admire them and want to be like them. You have talked a lot about the importance of responsible advertising. What do you think about the little boys and girls going to watch Blackburn Rovers and seeing Totally Wicked advertised on a sportsman’s shirt, when they go to the stadium called the Totally Wicked stadium? You are effectively advertising your products to children”

Marcus replied…

“Quite the opposite, actually. In Lancashire, which is where Blackburn Rovers and our business are based, there is one of the highest smoking prevalence rates in the whole of the country. We believe that everyone that we can drive awareness to about the relative safety of vaping versus smoking is someone who is going to benefit from that. We happen to have our name on the shirts—it is not on the shirts for minors and yes, I appreciate the point that they might see their heroes on the field, but educating people around the role of vaping to try to eradicate smoking, which is at its highest in that particular county, is a really important message.”

Dr Johnson further questioned the methods of Totally Wicked using football sponsorship…

“You would dispute the idea that walking up to the Totally Wicked stadium as a boy or girl of 12 or 13, seeing the branding in the stadium, walking into the football ground and seeing the young men on the field—their heroes, as you have described them—running around the pitch with “Totally Wicked” emblazoned across their chest and then coming out past the Totally Wicked shop on site has no impact on those children’s thoughts about your brand at all.”

Marcus responded with…

“If anything, I hope it would drive awareness of the fact that there are over 5,000 cases of youths being hospitalised due to passive smoke per year. It might drive awareness about the relative safety of vaping, for their parents to potentially adopt it and make a lifesaving decision to switch to vaping. If they saw our store, they would not get across the threshold because we would not let an under-18 into our stores. “

Dr Johnson ramped it up a bit…

“You are suggesting that you are advertising it to children in order to encourage their parents to stop.”

To which Marcus said…

“Absolutely not. What I am saying is that, factually, I think the fact is that for anyone out there who is a smoker and sees our brand very subtly—at the sports stadium, it might hopefully drive some education to see the relative safety of vaping versus smoking. I do not think in any way —quite the opposite—we put it in front of children to encourage them to vape at all.”

The focus then came back to John Dunne – with Paul Blomfield asking…

“Mr Dunne, you have acknowledged that there is an enormous problem created by your industry. Don’t you think it is possibly a bit convenient that you come along to us this morning and argue that the regulation should be focused on retailers, knowing that trading standards do not have the capacity for enforcement, and on social media? It is a great diversion tactic. Don’t you think there is a problem with your products that you should look at?”

John replied…

“No, absolutely not. These products have been around for well over 15 years. They are the most successful way that adults quit smoking here in the UK. We now have 4.2 million people vaping successfully, who were primarily ex-smokers.”

A beauty from Paul Blomfield is quoted below…

“We have heard from previous witnesses that vaping is more addictive than smoking. Do you know what the proportion of nicotine is in your products compared with cigarettes?”

Then he started on John Dunne about the fact that Big Tobacco companies were part of the UKVIA organisation…

“Mr Dunne, as the Chair pointed out, your board includes representatives of British American Tobacco, Philip Morris International, Imperial Tobacco or Imperial Brands, as they are now—and Japan Tobacco International. Don’t you think it would be a reasonable assumption that what has really happened is that faced with the inevitable decline of smoking, because of the regulation taking place internationally, big tobacco just saw an opportunity to use vaping to create a new generation of nicotine addicts?”

Rachael Maskell got stuck in…

“It is very clear from the industry that your interest is the profit motive—it always has been—and to be able to recruit another generation, as my colleague said, of people who are using your products into an addictive lifestyle. That obviously means that you then secure for the long term the profit margins that you want to generate from these products. I take it that you would have no objection whatsoever to the taxation suggestions that came from ASH this morning, which would deter many people from even taking up those products. “

Anecdotals

The following exchange was interesting as it berates John Dunne for quoting “Anecdotals” – which were flying about from those in the first panel…

Chair: “Going back to Rachael Maskell’s point, and I am paraphrasing, her question was that you would take no exception to them only being sold through licensed pharmacies. If you are highly motivated to move off nicotine tobacco products, what would be the problem in going to a pharmacy? There are lots of pharmacies. What would be the problem?”

John Dunne: “Lots of pharmacies stock vaping products, but I think it is important to make these products available wherever tobacco products are sold. For the most part smokers are not making a conscious decision. They do not walk into a store and go, “Oh, I’m going in there to buy an e-cigarette.” It is generally a spontaneous decision in the first place to go, “Do I buy a pack of cigarettes, or do I try something different?” That is why it is very important to have those products available where consumers are buying— ”

Chair: “Can you evidence that? It is a spontaneous decision, so they go in and think, “I may buy a packet of cigarettes today, but I may buy a vape.” It is literally as spontaneous as that: “I might buy a Yorkie bar, or I might buy a Wispa. No, I might buy a packet of cigarettes, but I might buy a vape.” Can you evidence that to us in writing?”

John: “I have spoken to thousands of vapers over the years—”

Chair: “No. We cannot deal in anecdotals. If you have evidence to back that up, we would love to see it.”

Marcus Saxton: ” For me, the singular point is that it is just whenever that product is available. To John’s point, I cannot evidence that, which is why I would not cite it. For me, it is about whenever that is available, and for a tobacco product that is going to categorically kill two out of three users we must have a regulated vaping product available for them to make that choice. Whether that is immediately or over time, with the right education that sits behind it, that is what the UK has seen and where it is proven to be able to be successful. That is the bit we have to stay focused on.”

Vaping & NHS

Dr Johnson started with…

“Do you think that the NHS has failed in getting doctors to prescribe these so that people can have them free?”

Marcus replied…

“We have certainly failed in educating people. I know that there have been some horror stories in the press about a GP who suggested that their son should move to cigarettes rather than vape. That is absolutely terrible. If that is where we have got to, there is further education that must be driven into the system before we think about anything further. I agree that education is key.”

John commented…

“I find it very interesting that you say there has not been a device that has gone through the medical licensing process—”

To which Dr Johnson said…

“That wasn’t what I said. What I said is that there are none available on NHS prescription, according to the NHS website this morning”

John pointed out…

“The only product that has successfully gotten through was brought through by British American Tobacco. It went to market and failed miserably. It went bankrupt within the first year.”

Dr Johnson replied…

“What I was saying is that there aren’t any available on NHS prescription. The NHS, when it asks doctors to prescribe things—I should mention that I am a doctor—goes through several high levels of safety checks. I find it interesting that these very products have not made it to prescription if they are, indeed, such a safe and life saving product.”

Number Of Vapers

A large discussion then began on the number of vapers which went backwards and forwards confusing everyone listening plus the panel members too!

I won’t quote all that – as I can’t understand it either!

Closing

The chair then closed with the following…

“We will close there. John Dunne, director general of the UK Vaping Industry Association, and Marcus Saxton, chairman of the Independent British Vape Trade Association, thank you very much. It was a robust session—it is meant to be; the subject stirs strong emotions, and we don’t apologise for that—but we are grateful for your time.”

NNA Response

The NNA (New Nicotine Alliance) were not impressed by the Health & Social Care Committee proceedings – I quote…

“On Wednesday 28 June, the government’s Health and Social Care Committee held an oral evidence session on youth vaping. It consisted of two panels of witnesses who gave evidence and were questioned by MP members of the committee.

We watched proceedings on Parliament TV and were disappointed that much of the discussion was inaccurate and often ill-informed. In light of this, we have written to the committee today to highlight the many inaccurate, misleading, or false statements and remarks during the hearing. We hope committee members will recognise these areas of concern and take them into account when considering their future recommendations.”

They have produced a letter to the committee to point out all the inaccuracies that were presented as fact. You can read the letter here.nna youth vaping response

I am so pleased with this response! In fact as a trustee for the NNA I even added my signature to it!

Related Tweets

Michelle

My name is Michelle - I am 48 and an engineer and Technical Author by trade. I started vaping many years ago in the days of Tornado tanks, Ego batteries and Variable Voltage. My journey in vaping began again around 2016 and have been interested in the topic ever since. I finally stopped smoking as of June 2019 and that is all thanks to vaping! 20mg Nicotine Salts are my hero! Oh and I am partial to a nice pod mod and Bubblegum e-liquid! I have enjoyed writing for Ecigclick since 2017 and love being part of this great team! My passion for Tobacco Harm Reduction has also led me to becoming a Trustee for the NNA (New Nicotine Alliance) aiding in Advocacy

My name is Michelle - I am 48 and an engineer and Technical Author by trade. I started vaping many years ago in the days of Tornado tanks, Ego batteries and Variable Voltage. My journey in vaping began again around 2016 and have been interested in the topic ever since. I finally stopped smoking as of June 2019 and that is all thanks to vaping! 20mg Nicotine Salts are my hero! Oh and I am partial to a nice pod mod and Bubblegum e-liquid! I have enjoyed writing for Ecigclick since 2017 and love being part of this great team! My passion for Tobacco Harm Reduction has also led me to becoming a Trustee for the NNA (New Nicotine Alliance) aiding in Advocacy

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