Jim Shannon asked the Secretary of State for the Environment and Rural Opportunities what steps are being taken to combat tobacco waste litter.
Under-Secretary Rebecca Pow told him: “We believe that the tobacco industry must take responsibility for the litter created by their products. Our most recent composition survey found cigarette butts represent 66% of all littered items, and preliminary research has shown an estimated cost to UK local authorities and other duty bodies of £40 million per year for the collection and disposal of littered cigarette butts, rising to £46 million when including those disposed of in public bins.
“Last year, I met with tobacco industry representatives and asked them to consider what more they could to address smoking related litter and whether a voluntary producer responsibility scheme could be developed for tobacco waste products.
“Having considered further evidence, the Government has now decided that a regulatory approach may now be required to ensure that the industry takes sufficient financial responsibility for the litter created by its products and to prevent them from undermining public health policy.
“We plan to commission new research into regulatory options this year, including consideration of extended producer responsibility principles.
“The Environment Bill will allow us to legislate for extended producer responsibility schemes, which could be applied to tobacco products. Cigarette and tobacco product packaging is already covered by the proposed packaging producer responsibility scheme, which is currently undergoing a second phase of consultation.”
David Jones wondered if the Department of Health and Social Care was working to have an evidence review on e-cigarettes published, “in time for its conclusions to be taken into account in the forthcoming Tobacco Control Plan.”
Under-Secretary Jo Churchill responded: “Public Health England published its seventh commissioned report on vaping in February 2021. The conclusions of this report and all previous reports will be considered as part of the scoping for the new Tobacco Control Plan.”
About the Tobacco Control Plan, Jason McCartney asked if the Department’s Secretary of State planned to bring forward proposals in the Green Paper to the plan, and if he was going to release the timeframe for the policy development and publishing.
Jo Churchill delivered a non-answer that didn’t respond to any of McCartney’s points.
Labour’s Mary Glindon is currently killing it as an advocate for vaping within Parliament. She asked:
- What steps are being taken to challenge misinformation preventing long-term smokers from making the switch to less harmful alternatives as part of Vaping Awareness Month?
- What assessment the Department has made of the effectiveness of e-cigarettes in helping adult smokers switch to less harmful alternatives?
- If the Department will promote campaigns to encourage long-term smokers to switch to vaping?
- If the department has made an estimate of the cost to the NHS of treating smoking-related illnesses in each of the past five years? And,
- What steps are being taken to tackle online misinformation about the vaping industry?
Jo Churchill replied: “The Department encourages all smokers to quit or move to less harmful products, such as e-cigarettes, if they are unable to quit. In England, an estimated 2.5 million people use e-cigarettes, the majority of whom no longer smoke. In addition, around 50,000 people a year quit smoking through switching to e-cigarettes, who would not have quit through other means.
“The Better Health mass media smoking cessation campaign, delivered by Public Health England and as part of a package of tobacco control measures, has been effective at helping challenge misinformation surrounding e-cigarettes. Alongside this, local stop smoking services advise smokers of the benefits of switching to less harmful products, with some offering free vaping starter kits.
“We have made no such estimate [of cost to the NHS]. However, we are committed to reducing smoking prevalence and the associated costs to the National Health Service. A new Tobacco Control Plan will be published later this year.”
Mary’s last question was addressed by Caroline Dinenage, the Minister of State for the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.
Dinenage said: “The Department of Health and Social Care and PHE meet with the Independent British Vape Trade Association to discuss industry concerns and wider regulatory matters, including misinformation.
“E-cigarettes in the UK 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.
“DCMS works closely with the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) who facilitate the self-regulation of the UK advertising sector through the UK Code of Broadcast Advertising (BCAP Code) and The UK Code of Non-broadcast Advertising and Direct & Promotional Marketing (CAP Code) - which applies to online advertising. The ASA has a clear framework for advertisers to follow in relation to what is and is not allowed when making health claims about vapes or e-cigarettes.
“The Better Health national marketing campaign on smoking cessation, delivered by Public Health England, has been effective at helping challenge misinformation surrounding e-cigarettes. The campaign is supported by public health professionals at a local level, helping smokers switch to e-cigarette products.
“The key consideration for advertisers is whether their marketing communications do anything further than provide basic, factual information about the products. Any content that appears to make the product seem more attractive is likely to be regarded as promotional and therefore likely to be ruled against by the ASA and removed.”