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Earlier this week during a Tobacco Control Plan debate, Labour Party MP Sir Kevin Barron highlighted the contrast in smoking rates between the UK and Ireland, pointing out that the only difference in policy between the two countries is the approach towards e-cigarettes.

Sir Kevin Barron, who has been the Member of Parliament for Rother Valley since 1983, pointed out that while smoking rates in the UK have plummeted, in Ireland they have stalled, as has the public’s perception about the relative benefits of vaping. Sir Kevin indicated that a “proper harm reduction strategy” would be “an important plank” towards reducing these health inequalities, and the NNA is commending the MP for his stance and vision.

Ireland’s resistance to e-cigarettes is stalling progress

Sir Kevin, who has 20 years’ experience of government policy surrounding tobacco, is suggesting a “proper harm reduction strategy” which incorporates the use of e-cigarettes.
The New Nicotine Alliance (NNA), a charity which strives to improve public health via harm reduction, pointed out that in Ireland, where e-cigarettes are viewed with suspicion, the smoking rate actually went up in this period. As a means to counteract this, Sir Kevin, who has 20 years’ experience of government policy surrounding tobacco, is suggesting a “proper harm reduction strategy” which incorporates the use of e-cigarettes.

In response to this, the NNA released a statement applauding Sir Kevin’s vision and urging the Under-Parliamentary Secretary of State, Steve Brine, to be less cautious in relation to the use of safer alternatives, and also to promote a better understanding and awareness of the relative risks of the products.

Statement by NNA chair

“E-cigarettes are a proven safer alternative to smoking and the UK boasts 1.5 million former smokers who have converted from combustible tobacco to exclusively vaping instead. Sir Kevin’s comments are most welcome, but it is continually disappointing that Steve Brine is reluctant to recognise the part that recreational use of these products can play. Instead of adhering to a goal of total nicotine abstinence, it would be better to install policies which would encourage long-term use of alternatives,” said NNA Chair Sarah Jakes.

“E-cigarettes are a proven safer alternative to smoking and the UK boasts 1.5 million former smokers who have converted from combustible tobacco to exclusively vaping instead.”Sarah Jakes, Chair, NNA

“As mentioned during the debate, many smokers genuinely enjoy smoking and view giving up smoking as giving up on an enjoyable part of their life. Devices that can deliver the nicotine they enjoy without the harm of combustible tobacco are a perfect solution for huge numbers of people. Government should be more understanding of the pleasure that nicotine can deliver and of the reasons that current smokers continue to smoke.”

“Pleasure should not be a dirty word when it comes to nicotine, just as it isn’t when talking about a pint in the pub or a welcome coffee in the morning. It is the combustion of tobacco which causes the harm, and if smokers are more confident in trying reduced risk products, there will be even more future public health successes, like the ones highlighted by Sir Kevin yesterday.”

NNA suggests less caution towards safer alternatives

Jakes added that the health ministry should show more leadership and less caution in relation to harm reduction. “The UK is regarded worldwide as a global leader in tobacco harm reduction and the results speak for themselves, therefore we hope that Mr Brine will show more leadership, and less caution, towards safer nicotine products to better enable him to achieve the ambitious targets that he has set in the government’s Tobacco Control Plan.”

“Pleasure should not be a dirty word when it comes to nicotine, just as it isn’t when talking about a pint in the pub or a welcome coffee in the morning. “Sarah Jakes, Chair, NNA

Earlier this month, when Scotland published its own Tobacco Control Plan (TCP), the NNA spoke up once again, pointing out that while the plan contains a number of positive references to safer alternatives, it is lacking in its approach to harm reduction.

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