Conservative member Baroness Redfern asked in the House of Lords: “[Are] people who vape are given the same access to NHS services as people who smoke who are seeking to quit; and if not, why not?”
Fielding her last questions as The Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Health and Social Care, Baroness Blackwood of North Oxford responded: “Stop smoking services are designed to help people who wish to stop using tobacco products and offer a range of options to support. E-cigarettes are not tobacco products and therefore people using them are not eligible for stop smoking services. We would still advise everyone that not smoking/quitting entirely is the best option.”
Maybe she should have asked why Baroness Redfern wanted vapers to quit?
In the House of Commons, Labour’s Mark Hendrick enquired: “What recent assessment [the Secretary of State] has made of trends in the level of vaping amongst children and young people; and what the implications are for the NHS with respect to the future treatment of young and adult patients with disorders associated with vaping?”
Jo Churchill, still the Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Health and Social Care despite the cabinet shuffling, replied: “While experimentation with e-cigarettes is not uncommon among young people, current and regular use remains low. E-cigarettes in the United Kingdom are tightly regulated by the Tobacco and Related Products Regulations 2016 (TRPR) and the Nicotine Inhaling Products (Age of Sale and Proxy Purchasing) Regulations 2015 (NIP). These regulations aim to reduce the risk of harm to children; to protect against any risk of renormalisation of tobacco use; and to provide assurance on relative safety for users. The regulations include restrictions on mainstream TV and radio advertising; prevent sale to under 18s; and limit both tank sizes and nicotine content.”
“We are monitoring youth use closely and will take action, if necessary, to ensure that regular use among children and young people does not increase, and that e-cigarettes do not become a gateway to tobacco use. The Government has a statutory obligation to conduct post implementation reviews of TRPR by May 2021 and NIP later this spring. We continue to keep the evidence base on e-cigarettes under review and the next Public Health England annual review is due to be published later this month.”
Vapers and smokers should take heart from the positive replies to these leading questions, but also wonder who is prompting them to be asked in the first place when all of the evidence has been tabled in the government reports and briefings by Public Health England?
Finally, East Londonderry’s Gregory Campbell asked the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, “whether the Tobacco Control Plan 2017-2022 is making adequate progress to reduce adult smoking prevalence to 12 per cent by 2022?”
“Adult smoking rates in England are at their lowest level recorded at 14.4% of the population,” Jo Churchill said, although not mentioning the role vaping has played is drastically reducing the rates. “The Government continues to make progress towards delivering the ambition of 12% or less by the end of 2022. As announced in the Prevention Green Paper the Government has set out a further ambition to go ‘smoke-free’ in England by 2030. Proposals for this will be set out at a later date.”