Gareth Johnson, the Conservative MP for Dartford, asked the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care how many manufacturers, distributors and importers of e-cigarette products provided data on any adverse effects linked to their products.
He also wanted to know if any companies not reporting adverse effects had been sanctioned and if the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) had been given sufficient funding to go after those companies. He didn’t detail what negative impacts he was concerned about given that there don’t appear to be any.
It was Nadine Dorries, in her position as Minister of State for the Department of Health and Social Care, who raised unrelated concerns by mentioning the EVALI (e-cigarette or vaping associated lung injury) outbreak in the United States last year in her response.
She said the MHRA had approached “513 producers of nicotine containing e-liquid listed on the United Kingdom notified products list. The request was for information relating to any suspected respiratory adverse reaction in association with their products.
“Overall, 275 responses were received, covering approximately 72% of notified products. Seventeen producers confirmed they had received reports and provided data. This resulted in the addition of 125 cases of adverse respiratory reactions to the MHRA database of suspected adverse reaction reports to e-cigarette products.”
Martyn Day, SNP MP for Linlithgow and East Falkirk, asked the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care what plans the Department has to consult on updates to tobacco and related products legislation, what assessment has made of the safety of tobacco-free nicotine pouches, and which body is responsible for the regulation of novel nicotine products.
Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State Jo Churchill replied that the government would undertake a public consultation before the end of the year as part of its commitment to conduct a legislation review by 20 May 2021.
She added that no assessment of the safety of tobacco-free nicotine pouches has been made by the Department and that it shoulders responsibility for their oversight under The Tobacco and Related Products Regulations 2016.
As part of a debate in the House of Lords concerned with the impact of COVID-19 on public health, Baroness Meacher raised the subject of vape shops being forced to close.
“I have a third concern: these regulations should not exacerbate serious addictions,” she said. “Why exclude vape shops—not normally places I visit, but still—from the list of businesses that can remain open for health purposes as listed in paragraph 47 of Schedule 1? Tobacco-related illnesses kill 70,000 people every year. The anti-smoking campaign has been hugely successful, and the 3.2 million vapers are ex-smokers or current smokers attempting to stop. Closing the vape shops could set back the anti-smoking campaign terribly badly. Will the Minister take away my request for vape shops to be slipped into that list of businesses that can remain open for health reasons?”
No commitment to reconsider the position was promised.
Back in the House of Commons, Alex Cunningham, Shadow Justice Minister, also pressed on the matter: “Will [the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care] reconsider the decision to close specialist shops selling vaping products during the November 2020 covid-19 lockdown in England?”
Jo Churchill delivered a pitiful response: “It will not be possible to answer this question within the usual time period. An answer is being prepared and will be provided as soon as it is available.”