News From Parliament

Posted 8th November 2021 by Dave Cross
A flurry of questions about vaping, tobacco harm reduction (THR) and tobacco policy have been asked and answered in Parliament over the last fortnight. The last fortnight has been hectic when it comes to THR questions and will be split over two articles.

Dame Margaret Hodge referenced this year’s ASH report and asked the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care what steps his department is taking to help reach the target of making England smoke-free by 2030 - given that 51 per cent of remaining smokers have stopped using e-cigarettes.

Maggie Throup responded to tell her: “The Office for Health Improvement and Disparities will continue to provide information, advice and support related to the benefits of using e-cigarettes as a tool for smoking cessation. We will continue to communicate this through local stop smoking services and campaigns.

“The Department is considering a range of innovative policy and regulatory changes to achieve our ambition to be smoke-free by 2030. This will be set out in our new Tobacco Control Plan, which we will publish in due course.”

Labour MP for Ealing, Virenda Sharma asked if there was a delivery plan and timetable for the forthcoming Tobacco Control Plan for England and if plans would be future proofed to include emerging smokeless tobacco and nicotine products.

Virenda also wanted to know what the Department of Health and Social Care thought about the World Health Organisation banning independent including journalists and other third-parties from spectating events at the Ninth session of the Conference of the Parties (COP9).

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Throup delivered the answers: “The Department is currently in the process of drafting a new Tobacco Control Plan. Once the Plan has been published, we will set out a delivery plan and timetable to monitor its progress, and to make sure we deliver our ambition to be smoke-free by 2030.

The Department is currently undertaking a post implementation review of the Tobacco and Related Product Regulations 2016 which will include measures related to emerging products. The Department is aiming to publish its response by the end of the year.”

Her response regarding COP9 was distinctly disappointing: “The Department has no plans to provide a submission to the Ninth Session of the Conference of the Parties' secretariat ahead of the Conference. The Deputy Director for Addictions and Inclusion Policy at the Office for Health Improvement and Disparities will lead the United Kingdom delegation with support from officials at the UK Mission in Geneva.

“Applications to attend as an observer are a matter for the Conference secretariat and consequently, we are not aware of exclusions of third-party representatives.”

Knowsley’s George Howarth wanted to know if the Department was planning any regulatory or legislative amendments when the Tobacco Control Plan for England is published.

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Parliamentary Under-Secretary Maggie Throup said they were looking at proposals but didn’t elaborate.

Sir Howarth expressed his concern that the Secretariat of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control has ceased to publish interventions from delegations in the summary records. Throup said the Department was unaware of that, but that the Secretariat will publish all outcomes and decisions – not addressing the point of his unease.

Dan Jarvis wanted to know about recent trends in smoking among young people in England and was told that updated figures would be available in 2022.

Charlotte Nichols asked the Secretary what estimate has been made of the amount that HMRC lost in duties on vaping products because of smuggling and how much the HMRC has raised in duties on vaping products in each of the last three years.

Helen Whately, Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury, told her: “Vaping products, such as e-cigs, are currently taxed as a consumer product with the VAT rate being 20%. There is no excise duty on vaping products.

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“HMRC does not hold information on VAT revenue from vaping products because businesses are not required to provide figures at a product level on their VAT returns, as this would impose an excessive administrative burden.

“HMRC estimates tax gaps, which encompass taxes and duties lost as a result of smuggling. The Department publishes estimates of the VAT gap using a ‘top down' estimation approach which would capture any smuggling of vaping. However, our method does not allow us to identify individual items separately within the total VAT gap.”


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