Questions in Parliament

Posted 1st March 2021 by Dave Cross
Lee Anderson asked the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care about issues relating to the COVID-19 pandemic. Alex Norris wanted to know more about the state of play following the ban on menthol in tobacco and a flavour review in the Tobacco and Related Products review. Jim Shannon was concerned about possible gateway effects of vaping.

Lee Anderson(1), Ashfield’s Conservative MP, asked the Secretary if the Department is conducting research to find out the level to which tobacco users may experience more serious COVID-19 symptoms and what information is currently held about it.

Jo Churchill(2), the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, told him: “At the request of Public Health England, an independent and regularly updated rapid review of the international evidence on smoking and COVID-19 has been made and is available(3).

The evidence on smoking and COVID-19 is mixed and developing. We do not yet have a clear picture on the impact of smoking on COVID-19 risks. There is strong evidence that smoking tobacco is generally associated with an increased risk of developing respiratory viral infections.”

Nottingham North’s Alex Norris(4) (Labour) wanted all tobacco products that are currently under investigation for breaching the ban on menthol products to be removed from the market until a finding has been given. Also, he wanted details about any assessment made of industry compliance with the Public Health England investigation and when the results of that investigation would be published. He felt characterising flavours should be stipulated within the Tobacco and Related Products Regulations.

Jo Churchill replied: “The Department has asked Public Health England to conduct testing analysis of cigarettes as part of its investigation into possible breaches of the prohibition of characterising flavours in tobacco products. This work should conclude in the summer. There are currently no plans to publish the results of the investigation. We understand that industry is complying with the investigation.”

The Electronic Cigarette Company

Jim Shannon, the DUP’s Shadow Spokesperson for Human Rights and Health asked about the steps being taken to ensure that people taking up vaping do not progress onto smoked tobacco products like cigarettes.

 Jo Churchill responded: “The Government is clear that e-cigarettes should only be used by smokers to support their route to quitting smoking. In the current Tobacco Control Plan for England, the Government commissioned Public Health England to publish annual updates on the evidence on e-cigarettes, including on their patterns of use. Their latest report(6), published in March 2020, found no evidence that vaping among adults leads them to start smoking and little evidence that increases in vaping among young people leads to increases in smoking.”


  1. Lee Anderson -
  2. Jo Churchill -
  3. The association of smoking status with SARS-CoV-2 infection, hospitalisation and mortality from COVID-19: A living rapid evidence review with Bayesian meta-analyses (version 10) -
  4. Alex Norris -
  5. Jim Shannon -
  6. Vaping in England: evidence update March 2020 -

 Dave Cross
Article by Dave Cross
Freelance writer, physicist, karateka, dog walker