Call For Big Tobacco to Fund Smoking Cessation Clinics – Free E-Cigs for Pregnant Women – No Tax On Vaping Gear and More
England’s Tobacco Control Plan was debated in the Houses of Parliament this week with MPs calling for a tax freeze on e-cigs and for tax to be increased on cigarettes with the cash used for smoking cessation schemes.
Big Tobacco didn’t get off at all lightly with one MP saying they’d ‘got us in this mess and should pay to get us out of it‘ with an idea similar to the levy in the USA that charges tobacco companies to sell in the country which raises close to $2billion per year.
Vaping and e-cigarettes were discussed in a favourable light and Steve Brine MP, The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health agreeing that there is a case for Big Tobacco to offer free e-cigs in particular to pregnant women that smoke.
The debate was opened by Sir Keith Barron MP for Rother Valley a long time supporter of e-cigs and a former chairman of the committee on the Pharmaceutical Industry and Smoking and Health.
He was a little upset at some local councils that had slashed 39% off smoking cessation services despite these funds being ‘ring fenced‘ by the government and praised the wonderful Leicester stop smoking initiative that he called ‘trailblazers‘ for using e-cigs in their clinics since 2014.
Sir Keith was also a little perplexed at the rise in the public’s belief that vaping was as bad if not worse than smoking calling it an ‘incredible statistic‘.
He agreed with Mark Pawsey MP who suggested vaping companies should be given more freedom to explain the health benefits of smokers switching to e-cigs.
However it was the use of heat not burn products [such as the IQOS] that he turned his attention to as they may be the answer for smokers who have found e-cigs are not for them adding:
Some people worried about these products owned by tobacco companies – who have been extremely dishonest in the past around the harms of smoking – there’s an urgent need for research into these device. Many are very wary of these ‘novel products…just because they have tobacco connections we should not ignore
the potential benefits for people who’ve not been able to stop with more traditional smoking cessation products.
He led the call for a tax hike on cigarettes in the upcoming budget with the cash raised going to both smoking cessation clinics and indeed mass media campaigns – a suggestion welcomed by other MPs.
Perhaps most controversially he called for Big Tobacco to in some way partner local authorities and the government to fund smoking cessation clinics:
Cash is short and given tobacco companies have got us into this ‘mess’ its only right they should get us out of it they have the resources and customer base to get the products to the people we should allow local authorities and the government to partner with them for the financial and technical help needed to help smokers quit.
A number of other MPs entered into the debate with many extolling the use of e-cigarettes as a way to quit except and curiously Bob Blackman MP who just happens to be the chair of the all party committee on ASH – the Action on Smoking and Health…
Here’s the highlights of what some of the MPs had to say.
Michelle Donelan MP [Con] Chippenham
She called for more education on the choices available to smokers looking to quit and called for e-cigarettes and vaping to not be included in no smoking policies.
Mrs Donelan also spoke of her mother’s struggle with quitting cigarettes but said she was thrilled her mom had been smoke free for 7 years thanks to vaping.
She concluded that vaping was:
…not the answer but part of the solution.
Bob Blackman MP [Con] Harrow East
As the chairman of the ASH committee you’d have thought he might have made a passing remark praising the virtues of e-cigarettes but was strangely silent on the topic.
However he did explain that this was an extremely personal issue to him as he’d lost both parents to smoking related cancer.
He was the MP who called for a US style levy on Big Tobacco and suggested that GPs should refer ALL smokers to smoking cessation clinics with the tobacco companies picking up the bill.
Dr Paul Williams [Lab] Stockton South
Another MP who didn’t mention e-cigarettes though he did say:
I believe in 50 yrs no one will smoke!
Will Quince MP [Con] Colchester
On e-cigarettes he said:
The jury is somewhat still out when it comes to these products – quitting outright is better but surely these products are better particularly in pregnancy and I encourage the minister of the Treasury to investigate some kind of levy on tobacco industry and ask them to supply these products to pregnant women for free.
Vicky Foxcroft MP [Lab] Lewisham and Deptford
Mrs Foxcroft shared her own personal story on how she’s benefited from switching from smoking to vaping:
I’m a vaper and have seen first hand the effect of moving from smoking are the health benefits.
Mary Glindon MP [Lab] North Tyneside
Mrs Glindon is a member of the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on e-cigarettes and has been trained in running a smoking cessation clinic.
Her husband and many of her friends and family have quit smoking and now vape – so she’s a firm supporter of e-cigs and only wishes they’d been around when she was running a clinic!
She urged the government not to tax vaping gear so putting it out of reach of those who already vape and those smokers who want to try it.
She was not a huge supporter of some parts of the TPD saying:
The TPD should be reviewed and restrictions on advertising – packaging and product size [my note: tanks and e-liquids?] should be lifted.
Robert Courts MP [Con] Whitney
He told the house that as someone with Libertarian beliefs his instinct was to go against the word control however in this case he felt it right to ‘balance the libertarian ideal of freedom against public health.’
Speaking about Stoptober he said:
It is easier to give up smoking now than it has been in the past due to technology – last stoptober 53% gave up with the help of e-cigs.
Mims Davies MP [Con] Eastleigh
Whilst supporting vaping she called for an element of caution and more research:
We all know about vape shops on our high streets we all know about the prevalence of vaping – this cannot be ignored and we must research into it I don’t want to have 20 or 30 years [problems] down the road thinking we thought this was our new messiah when it wasn’t but it may be lets do the research.
Stephen Kerr MP [CON] Stirling
Despite the debate being on England’s Tobacco Control Plan Scottish MP Mr Kerr pointed out that smoking rates in Scotland were considerably higher adding:
We must be prepared to do much more to reduce this figure. Regarding e-cigarettes I’m a firm supporter of them having a robust regulatory framework which both insures all devices are safe and acknowledges their potential use in smoking cessation.
Sharon Hodgson MP [Lab] Washington and Sunderland West
As the Opposition spokesman on the matter Mrs Hodgson was pleased to see the debate taking part in Stoptober but was concerned about government cuts to smoking cessation clinics meaning such services were not available to all.
Ministers Response to the Debate
Steve Brine MP, The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health stated the UK was now a ‘world leader in tobacco control‘ and suggested the use of the phrase ‘novelty tobacco products‘ in future bills should be changed!
On the matter of any future tax freezes on e-cigs and vaping gear he said he would leave that to the Chancellor of the Exchequer but said the idea of free e-cigarettes to pregnant women was one ‘worthy of consideration‘.
Summing up the debate around e-cigarettes he said:
PHE [Public Health England] is working on new year quitting campaign to start in January and they will reprise the very very hard hitting messages that we see on our television – I think its through this consistent messaging that we can hope to reverse the harmful mistaken recently widespread belief that vaping is no safer than smoking when it clearly is.
Look there was never going to be anything earth shattering from this debate – laws aren’t made that easily in the UK!
But it’s certainly refreshing to see e-cigs and vaping coming into the light so to speak.
Let’s hope this continues and more smokers can make the choice to switch based on unbiased evidence.
And let’s certainly hope the media begins to take a more positive stance too.
If you’d like to watch the whole debate which runs for an hour and half or so then head to Parliament Live and fast forward to 12.38pm.