The Tobacco Control Plan for England – what’s that all about then?
You have to read 14 pages of the UK Governments new Tobacco Control Plan for England before there’s a mention of e-cigarettes and vaping.
Ok, they do mention ‘innovative technologies’ early on which alludes I guess to e-cigs but then again that could mean anything if you think about it…
The blueprint sets out the Gov’s plan to create a ‘Smoke Free Generation’ and whilst it almost reluctantly gives the nod to the impact vaping has had on the health of the nation – I’ve come away feeling its platitudes rather than praise.
The whole document kind of reminds me of when your boss accepts an award for a piece of work that you and you alone have done – without you receiving the recognition.
In other words the Government is pretty much bigging up their ‘efforts’ in the huge decrease in the number of UK smokers without acknowledging that the majority of the 3million of us vapers have actually done it on our own and WITHOUT any of their bloody help.
A case of ‘we were doing fine until those meddling politicians came along’.
A More Positive Spin on Vaping Needed
Now before I go into the plan in a bit more detail – just imagine how many more smokers would now be ‘smoke free’ via e-cigs if the Government and ASH had been a little more positive about vaping from the onset.
Come to that think how many more smokers would be turning to vaping today had it not been for the dire warnings inserted in their minds by spurious and sensationalist media headlines – backed up by hand-wringing politicians and health professionals doing the job of Big Tobacco for them.
And of course the kneejerk – some might say spiteful – reaction of the EU to lump vaping in with tobacco under the TPD has simply made smokers believe the need for heavy handed legislation by the powers that be MUST mean e-cigarettes are as bad if not worse than the stinkies!
For the record – this is an opinion piece and like a review these thoughts and opinions are my own 😉
Any Good Stuff in the Plan?
Look there’s a couple of shall we call them ‘nuggets’ in there such as getting employers to consider allowing vaping in the workplace and a promise to ‘look at the TRPR’ – but that’s about it.
BTW vaping isn’t covered and can’t technically be enforced by current smoking regulations anyway…like I said platitudes.
And the suggestion that e-cigs and e-liquids are being considered for ‘medicinal regulation for e-cigarette products’ – therefore available on the NHS – certainly set my alarm bells off.
Forget the cost of a prescription – if you think the MHRA are tough cookies when it comes to giving the yay or nay to new vape products just wait until NICE get called in to check if that new fruit flavoured e-liquid is OK or if that new 2ml tank really does give exact measured doses of nicotine.
Compared to how we stand now adding the ‘medicinal’ tag to vape stuff will mean even more red tape – more hurdles to jump through – more expense that could potentially cripple a fledgling innovative and vibrant life changing industry.
But I digress that rant is for another time.
Anyway let’s look at what the UK Gov’s plan to create a ‘Smoke Free Generation’ is all about.
Goals of the TCP
These are the main aims of the plan towards a smoke free generation:
- People should be supported not to start smoking, so we aim, by the end of 2022 to:
- Reduce the prevalence of 15 year olds who regularly smoke from 8% to 3% or less.
- Reduce smoking prevalence amongst adults in England from 15.5% to 12% or less.
- Reduce the inequality gap in smoking prevalence between those in routine and manual occupations and the general population.
- To do this we need all public services to work together, leading the way in helping people to stop smoking.
- After 2022, we will continue to reduce smoking prevalence further, on our way to a smoke free generation.
- Reduce the prevalence of smoking in pregnancy from 10.7% to 6% or less.
- Improve data collected on smoking and mental health to help us to support people with mental health conditions to quit smoking.
- Make all mental health inpatient services sites smoke free by 2018
- Help people to quit smoking by permitting innovative technologies that minimise the risk of harm.
- Maximise the availability of safer alternatives to smoking.
Sounds great – so how do we do that?
How to Put the Plan into Operation
The Government has identified four key areas in how to get smoking levels down:
- Target Regions and the Poor
Prevention will include ensuring plain packaging on tobacco continues as they believe this will stop youngsters being drawn to tobacco – which I have to say leaves me a little bemused.
However, surely this opens up the next attack on vaping – plain packaging for kits and e-liquids maybe?
Let’s face it we have those ridiculous nicotine warnings on anything vape related and that’s how the plain packaging of fag packets began right.
Support will include access to trained professionals offering advice on giving up smoking and urging and supporting visitors and staff to NHS properties to quit.
The number of people accessing NHS quit smoking centres has shown a drop over the years – so it’s a pretty much failed system they plan to prop up there.
Maybe if former smokers who now vape and work in say a vape shop – or even reviewers should be allowed to offer expert and even anecdotal advice – pretty cost effective and efficient if you ask me!
The plan is to target ‘certain groups’ and by that they mean the poor and regions where poverty is prevalent.
They call it ‘socio-economic variations’ – I call it snobbery – like the recent banning of smaller weights of tobacco or packets of 10 fags – nothing short of a nasty stealth tax on the less well off if you want my opinion.
As to enforcement?
Higher taxes on ‘tobacco products’ which in effect makes the poor poorer and the pirated and duty free fag market even more appealing.
However, part of the enforcement will include a combined effort to clamp down on the illicit tobacco trade – and ‘target’ shopkeepers selling to underage smokers – Trading Standards are being kept busy!
So What About Brexit and the TRPR?
Given we will – no idea when lol – eventually leave the EU the whole question of the implementation of EU laws will come under consideration.
The TCP considers this a good time to look at the impact the TRPR has on e-cigs here in England.
Here’s what they say:
…the government will review where the UK’s exit from the EU offers us opportunities to re-appraise current regulation to ensure this continues to protect the nation’s health.
We will look to identify where we can sensibly deregulate without harming public health or where EU regulations limit our ability to deal with tobacco.
In particular, the government will assess recent legislation such as the Tobacco Products Directive, including as it applies to e-cigarettes,and consider where the UK’s exit provides opportunity to alter the legislative provisions to provide for improved health outcomes within the UK context.
That could be condensed into this:
Once we’re out we’ll have a look at the TRPR and we might loosen some things and tighten others – we dunno yet...
So knowing politicians and their never giving a straight answer er answers – I would be looking at that as ‘we might even tighten a few things if we think we can’.
The best predictor of future behaviour is … past behaviour…
And I can’t think of many unpopular laws that have been repealed by politicians even if it’s the ‘will of the people’ – OK maybe the Poll Tax but that was hard fought 😉
I’m highly suspicious of any of the TRPR being removed or loosened – if anything I reckon we may be losing more of our vaping freedoms given what I believe is the sinister shadow of ‘medicinal regulation’ looming.
Reactions to the Grand Plan
You’ve probably noticed the media seemed to have concentrated on the ‘should folks be allowed to vape in the office’ argument part of the plan today.
Makes me laugh how they assume we all work in an office – but anyway I’m sure very many discussions – some heated no doubt – are taking place and that’s a good thing.
The more people talk about vaping and learn and understand the facts surrounding vaping and vapour – the more it will become accepted.
Once again it’s down to two organisations that I have a lot of time for – The New Nicotine Alliance and the Independent British Vape Trade Association – to respond sensibly to the TCP.
The links will take you to their full responses but here’s a couple of quotes:
Despite the success of vaping to date, 7.2 million people still smoke, and the latest ASH/YouGov survey, in 2017 found that the proportion of smokers who thought vaping was just as, or more harmful than smoking increased from 9 per cent to 22 per cent.
It was therefore disappointing that the new Tobacco Control Plan for England did not contain measures to redress the misinformation about vaping, including sensational and inaccurate press coverage or overinterpreted studies, which are warping public perceptions of the risks posed by vaping, and deterring smokers from switching.
If the Department of Health really does want to seriously reduce the number of smokers in England then it needs to take a significantly more proactive and public facing stance in favour of vaping.
The foreword to the report hails the UK’s success in reducing the prevalence, and thus the harms, of smoking. These achievements are attributed to “world leading public health measures”.
However, there is one glaring omission in the list which follows – the fact that the UK is also a world leader in its pragmatic approach to vaping, a pragmatism which has led to very significant numbers of smokers in the U.K. switching to the much safer alternative.
Perhaps the omission is because the U.K. Government doesn’t deserve to make that claim yet, as it enthusiastically embraced the EU TPD, stands by silently whilst vape bans proliferate, and clings to the illogical ban on another risk reduced product, snus.
The latest Tobacco Control Plan though, gives us hope that at least some of these issues can be addressed. The government’s commitment to review the TRPR, with a view to altering those provisions which relate to e-cigarettes, and the commitment to communicate accurate information about the relative risks of harm reduced products are, in particular, to be applauded. We hope to be heavily involved in that process.
Summing Up the Tobacco Control Plan
So the grand plan is really nothing new.
The introduction by Steve Brine [Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Public Health and Primary Care] says this:
Our vision is nothing less than to create a smoke free generation, To do this we need to shift emphasis from action at the national level – legislation and mandation of services to focused, local action, supporting smokers, particularly in disadvantaged groups, to quit.
Forgive me if I’m repeating myself but there’s been a significant drop in folks using ‘local quit smoking centres’ over the past few years so you’re flogging a dead horse there mate.
But hey as long as those politicians can slip the word ‘legislation’ in with the phrase ‘disadvantaged groups’ it keeps the faithful happy because let’s face it we need a law to stop the poor from buying fags right?
Most of us who’ve successfully quit the cigs through vaping did it without any Government help or ‘their’ money – but they really can’t handle that can they!
Governments are like over bearing parents too afraid to let us think for ourselves and make our own minds up once we have enough facts to consider.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again.
We need EDUCATION not LEGISLATION.
Educate more people on the benefits rather than the alleged hazards of vaping and we’d see smoking numbers fall faster.
You don’t need a ‘grand plan’ or a ‘vision’ that’s costing us the tax payers a bloody fortune – you just need common sense.
Leave the Vape Alone!
Common sense tells us that by looking at the wealth of positive evidence regarding the benefits of vaping vs the known dangers of smoking hands down shows vaping is 95% safer than smoking.
But whilst the media spins and the politicians have to be seen to care enough to legislate vaping out of existence we’ll get new laws – new ‘plans’ and more people will die.
And whilst it has to be welcomed part of the ‘grand plan’ includes a fresh media campaign on smoking cessation – surely the banning of e-cigarette and vaping adverts is ridiculous?
But maybe that’s the thing.
If it’s allowed to become even more popular and successful the chances of the Government ever getting ‘control’ and taxes [because that’s what it’s all about] will be lost.
Just leave us bloody vapers alone.
No hang on a second – support us rather than handcuff us – especially the vaping industry as a whole because together we’re showing you we can do it on our own and very successfully without your incessant need to meddle.
BTW you only have to look at some of the language used such as ‘control’ and ‘enforcement’ to see it’s more about power than health…or is that just me?
You can read the full Tobacco Control Plan HERE