Politics & Campaigns

Questions in Parliament

More questions have been asked in the UK parliament about tobacco harm reduction, vaping, and the treatment of vape shops during the COVID-19 lockdown

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Lee Anderson, the Conservative MP for Ashfield, asked about trends in nicotine product use and how evidence will be weighted in the current legislative review. Alex Cunningham, Labour MP for Stockton North, expressed his concern about vape stores being forced to close. Finally, Sir Charles Walker, Conservative MP for Broxbourne, focussed on heated tobacco products.

Lee Anderson asked the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care what comparative assessment has been made of the trends in the consumption of vaping products, heated tobacco products, and tobacco.

Jo Churchill, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Department of Health and Social Care, responded: “The Office for National Statistics' 'Adult smoking habits in the UK: 2019' shows that smoking prevalence in England has decreased from 17.8% in 2014 to 13.9% in 2019. The percentage of adults using e-cigarettes in England has increased from 3.7% in 2014 to 5.5% in 2019. Of those who use e-cigarettes daily, 42% also smoke cigarettes. Among smokers and vapers, greater use of e-cigarettes is associated with lower use of smoked tobacco.

She told him that Public Health England closely monitors trends from a range of data sources including official and academic surveys in order to produce the Vaping in England report, adding: “Use of heated tobacco products has consistently remained at rates of less than 1% of the adult population in England.”

Anderson followed up with a question about the Post Implementation Review of the Tobacco and Related Products Regulations 2016. He urged the government to accept submissions directly from scientists and experts in the harm reduction sphere and to give “due weight to the evidence from participants.”

Churchill responded: “The Government launched a consultation on the Tobacco and Related Products Regulations 2016 and the Standardised Packaging of Tobacco Products Regulations 2015 as part of our statutory obligation to conduct post implementation reviews on the legislation. It is a public consultation and open to any individual or any organisation wishing to submit a response.”

Alex Cunningham asked if the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, “will reconsider the decision to close specialist shops selling vaping products during the November 2020 COVID-19 lockdown in England?”

The question was fended off by Ms Nadine Dorries, who said: “Hygiene and social distancing measures are vitally important for reducing the transmission risk of COVID-19. We know that the virus spreads readily in any indoor environment where members of different households and/or support bubbles spend time together, so the transmission risk in indoor settings, such as specialist shops selling vaping products, remains high.

On this basis the decision was made to close non-essential shops during the November 2020 national restrictions. Researchers at the University of Massachusetts Amherst have linked inflammation in the body to the intensity of tobacco smoking among people with HIV. Their study found positive trends between intensity, duration and pack-years of smoking and inflammation in HIV-positive people, taking into account highly active antiretrovial therapy (HAART).”

Thank you, Ms Dorries, for that enlightening response.

Sir Charles Walker asked if the Secretary of State had assessed the role heated tobacco products might have to play in helping to achieve England's 2030 smoke-free target.

Jo Churchill replied: “The latest evidence to the Government, published by the Committee on Toxicity of Chemicals in Food on the 12 December 2017, show that although products still pose harm to users, they are likely to be less harmful than conventional cigarette smoking.

“Data on the impacts to human health are very limited, and it is recommended that smokers quit completely rather than move to these products. Use of these products has remained low at less than 1% of the adult population in England.

“The Government will be publishing a new Tobacco Control Plan for England to outline our Smokefree 2030 vision later this summer.”

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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