Ilford North’s Wes Streeting asked if there are current plans to change the rate of VAT applied to smoking cessation products such as vaping.
Jesse Norman, Financial Secretary to the Treasury, told him: “There are limits to the changes the Government can make to the VAT treatment of these goods under the framework of European law. While the UK is in the transition period, all existing EU VAT rules will continue to apply. Although all taxes are kept under review, there are no plans to change these reliefs at this time.”
Ashfield’s Lee Anderson asked: “If [the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care] will include all tobacco and nicotine containing products available in the UK in the forthcoming review of tobacco and e-cigarette policy.”
Jo Churchill, The Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Health and Social Care, responded: “The Government has a legal commitment to undertake a Post Implementation Review of the Tobacco and Related Product Regulations 2016 (TRPR) and The Standardised Packaging of Tobacco Products Regulations 2015. This will be completed by May 2021. The TRPR regulates both tobacco products and e-cigarettes. A response to the Post Implementation Reviews undertaken on tobacco legislation, implemented from 2010-2016, will be published later this year.”
She went on to add: “We continue to monitor the evidence base on the latest developments in the reduced-risk products market, including e-cigarettes, to assess their risks and evidence on how effective they are in helping smokers to quit smoking.”
Anderson followed up by asking about what type of guidelines are issued to GPs on recommending the less damaging alternatives to cigarettes to help more people give up smoking. Also, if the Department for Health is taking steps to ensure that GPs encourage patients who refuse to give up smoking to alternative products like vaping instead.
Churchill told him: “The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence guidance, ‘Stop smoking interventions and services’, describes best practice, and, general practitioners are expected to take the guidance fully into account. The guidance recommends that for patients interested in using a nicotine-containing e-cigarette to quit smoking, the practitioner should explain that many people have found them helpful to quit smoking cigarettes and the evidence suggests e-cigarettes are substantially less harmful to health than smoking, but are not risk free, and that the evidence in this area is still developing, including evidence on the long-term health impacts. Public Health England provides advice, information and resources for healthcare professionals on stop smoking support options, including e-cigarettes, and the evidence for their effectiveness.”
Alex Sobel wondered what steps the Department of Health is taking to ensure the continuation of work relating to smoking after the dismantling of Public Health England.
Public Health England has received a fair amount of criticism recently but has been a powerful force in helping to drive a pro-vaping agenda in parliament.
Churchill explained: “Alongside work to establish the National Institute for Health Protection, the Government will continue to focus on health improvement and preventing ill-health with support from the expert teams currently located in Public Health England, who will continue with their excellent work. We do not envisage any changes to where those responsibilities will sit before spring 2021. We will be engaging with an external stakeholder advisory group to develop options on where PHE’s health improvement functions would be best placed in order to support the public health system and improve the public’s health.”