An Open Dialogue

BAT’s Will Hill argues that an open dialogue on vaping is what we need to accelerate the decline in smoking rates

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Vaping turned public health into a state of disarray when it boomed, both experts and governments didn’t know what to do. It is now clear that the new technology is the most successful smoking quit tool ever created, but some old approaches persist. POTV asked Will Hill, Head of Legal & External Affairs, at British American Tobacco UK, for his take on how to move forward.

Will Hill writes:

“The Government has published its Prevention Green Paper, outlining its ambition to make the smoking of cigarettes “obsolete” by 2030 in the UK. The paper points to alternative products, such as e-cigarettes, to stamp out smoking across the country.

“This is an ambitious goal and one that acknowledges the crucial role that e-cigarettes must play as a cessation tool. Since 2012, when e-cigarettes became widely available in the UK, smoking rates have declined by around 5% versus a decline of less than 1% in the previous couple of years - while over three million people have taken up vaping.

“Despite the uptake in vaping, the message on the reduced risk of vaping versus smoking is failing to hit home with many smokers and misconceptions about e-cigarettes continue to be widespread. Recent research from Cancer Research UK found that four in ten people mistakenly believe that vaping is as harmful as smoking, which equates to 20 million people in the UK.

“For the Government to achieve its objective, and truly unlock the full potential of vaping as a public health tool, policy makers should work with tobacco companies, such as British American Tobacco, to encourage people to make the switch.  We understand smokers’ needs better than anyone else and want to use our unrivalled consumer insight to offer informed and invaluable support to local stop smoking services that make the forward-looking choice of offering e-cigarettes as one of the alternatives for smokers willing to quit.

There is a key role here for both the NHS and local authorities, which have devolved power to determine health policies, including those on stop smoking services. Currently, local policies on e-cigarettes differ hugely, varying from councils that endorse e-cigarettes and recommend them among the options presented to smokers wanting to stop, to councils not even considering vaping as a potential alternative for smokers that have struggled to quit by alternative means.

“These divergent policies are a sign that the misconceptions around vaping are not only permeating the general public and smokers, but also influencing public officials, stifling the development of policies that are in line with the national approach to e-cigarettes, expressed by the Government’s 2017 Tobacco Control plan, the Science and Technology Committee recommendations from 2018 and Public Health England in 2015.

“If the UK is to unlock the full potential of vaping, the progressive approach to e-cigarettes set out at a national level must be embraced at a local level, with NHS facilities and local stop smoking services working in tandem to raise awareness of vaping.

“Thanks to the work of our R&D scientists in Southampton, who are testing new nicotine delivery technologies every day, British American Tobacco UK is at the forefront of innovation in the vaping market and we are committed to offering smokers a range of high quality and safe potentially reduced risk products that can be a satisfying alternative to cigarettes.

“We believe that an open, transparent and constructive dialogue between all responsible actors in the vaping industry and authorities involved in smoking cessation services offers the UK a valuable, once in a lifetime opportunity to accelerate the decline in smoking rates in the UK.”

Will Hill

Head of Legal & External Affairs, at British American Tobacco UK

Dave Cross avatar

Dave Cross

Journalist at POTV
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Dave is a freelance writer; with articles on music, motorbikes, football, pop-science, vaping and tobacco harm reduction in Sounds, Melody Maker, UBG, AWoL, Bike, When Saturday Comes, Vape News Magazine, and syndicated across the Johnston Press group. He was published in an anthology of “Greatest Football Writing”, but still believes this was a mistake. Dave contributes sketches to comedy shows and used to co-host a radio sketch show. He’s worked with numerous vape companies to develop content for their websites.

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