The UK’s Tobacco and Vapes Bill, was announced in the King’s speech on November 7th 2023 and introduced to Parliament on the 20th of March 2024. It aims to regulate the sales and marketing of tobacco and vaping products, with a focus on preventing youth access to vaping. To this effect the bill seeks to increase enforcement against illegal sales, and possibly ban disposable vapes. Allegedly, the goal is to balance public health benefits with concerns over increasing youth vaping. But is this really the case?

ASH’s latest research is showing a significant increase in the perception among 11-17 year olds, that vaping is as bad or worse than smoking.
A committee on the bill recently held hearings from a range of stakeholders. Sadly the selection of these stakeholders was biased, as those who were asked to speak all had a vested interest in the passing of the measure. The hearings were notably one-sided, with no representatives from the vaping industry or the millions of vapers. Furthermore, the committee lacked any MPs who opposed the bill. Consequently, the hearings were labelled as the “Chamber of Misinformation,” highlighting significant misinformation presented during the sessions on April 30 and May 1. This biased approach has raised concerns about the fairness and accuracy of the evidence influencing the bill’s legislative process.

Sadly, this bias and misinformation is becoming increasingly rife in the UK. John Dunne, Director General of UKVIA, commented on ASH’s latest research showing a significant increase in the perception among 11-17 year olds that vaping is as bad or worse than smoking. Dunne highlighted that this misconception has coincided with a doubling of smoking rates among children. He emphasized that while efforts should be made to prevent youth vaping, it’s important to recognize that vaping has previously contributed to a decline in youth smoking. Contrary to media scare stories, there is no evidence that vaping leads to smoking in adulthood; in fact, data suggests the opposite.

Dunne also pointed out that the misinformation about vaping’s risks is as common among adults, with half of adults wrongly believing it is as harmful as smoking, potentially deterring them from quitting smoking. He urged that government regulations on vaping should balance reducing its appeal to children while ensuring adults can access the products easily in order to quit smoking. Dunne warned that without proper enforcement against underage sales and the black market, banning disposable vapes could inadvertently benefit the tobacco industry.

Is the UK govt. putting political gain before public health?

The UKVIA Director General criticized the government’s handling of the Tobacco and Vapes Bill, accusing it of prioritizing political gain over public health. He argued that while stricter enforcement against youth vaping is necessary, the government’s approach could backfire, increasing black market activity and deterring adult smokers from quitting.

Dunne emphasized that the vaping industry has long advocated for more resources for Trading Standards and proposed licensing vape retailers to better control illegal sales, which the government dismissed. He highlighted that most of the vaping industry supports public health by helping reduce smoking rates and criticized the government’s hostility towards vaping, warning that their current actions could ultimately harm public health.

The inaccurate evidence presented to the the Tobacco and Vapes Bill Committee

In light of these concerns, the UKVIA has recently written to local MPs about the quality and accuracy of information presented to the Tobacco and Vapes Bill Committee. In its letters, the association highlighted that much of the oral evidence was misleading, incomplete, or incorrect. The letters asserted that the exclusion of representatives from the vaping industry during the Committee’s proceedings led to a skewed message that conflated legal vaping with the black market and failed to distinguish between the tobacco and vaping industries.

While broadly supportive of the aims of the bill, the UKVIA emphasizes the need for MPs to scrutinize the legislation from an informed perspective based on facts, rather than fiction. They advocate for a balanced approach that protects young people from age-restricted products while ensuring access to effective smoking cessation aids for adult smokers. The UKVIA emphasized that they have no ties to the tobacco industry and calls for meaningful collaboration with the Department of Health and Social Care.

The UK’s U-Turn From THR Leader to Imposer of Irrational Vape Restrictions

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