Politics & Campaigns

Lords Debate Tobacco Harm Reduction

Peers debated vaping, tobacco harm reduction and measures to prevent youth uptake in the House of Lords

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Peers debated vaping, tobacco harm reduction and measures to prevent youth uptake in the House of Lords. The debate covered many areas including packaging, flavours and the availability of free samples. Some of the comments confirmed that harm reduction advocates still have work to do to convey the truth about nicotine and alternative nicotine products.

In debating an amendment to an Act of Parliament, the members of the House of Lords discussed adjusting the age of sale of tobacco products, raising them from 18 to 21, based on the recommendations in the 2021 report of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Smoking and Health.

The debate featured Lord Faulkner of Worcester, Baroness Masham of Ilton, Lord Young of Cookham, Baroness Northover, Baroness Finlay of Llandlaff, Lord Rennard, Lord Crisp, Baroness Merron and Earl Howe, the Deputy Leader of the House of Lords.

Lord Faulkner recently pushed for 100% smoke-free pavement licences where vaping would have been banned from beer gardens and outdoor restaurant seating areas.

Lord Faulkner said: “The rationale for [raising the age of sale] is clear. Raising the age of sale would have a larger impact in reducing smoking rates among young adults than any other single intervention. Experimentation has been found to be rare after the age of 21, so the more we do to prevent exposure and access to tobacco before this age, the more young people we can stop from being locked into a deadly addiction from which they may never escape.”

He continued to say that smokers aged 18 to 20 are more likely to be from lower socioeconomic backgrounds. In his opinion, this means that the effect of increasing the age of sale would be particularly beneficial in poorer and more disadvantaged communities because they wouldn’t spend money on smoking.

He then spoke about on Amendment 271, a provision requiring the Government to ban the free distribution of sample nicotine products to under-18s and to regulate the marketing of any novel nicotine products (including vaping).

I hope the Minister will agree that the current situation is unacceptable and will take action now to prevent e-cigarettes and other nicotine products being promoted to children. Including all nicotine products, not just e-cigarettes, will ensure that any new nicotine products introduced into the UK in future will be properly regulated from the outset.”

Baroness Masham pushed for the inclusion of cigarette pack inserts to be used to carry quit smoking advice. Many independent vape companies and advocates have argued that this would be an excellent method of communicating facts about vaping, combatting the growing misunderstanding due to billionaire-funded lies in the media.

Lord Young raised the prospect of levying a ‘polluter pays’ tax on tobacco companies, raising £700 million: “The policy is popular. The public believe a levy is justified: 77% support manufacturers paying a levy or licence fee to the Government for measures to help smokers quit and prevent young people taking up smoking, with just 6% opposing. Support for a levy is strong across voters of all the main parties.”

Baroness Northover criticised the government for further delays to the Tobacco Control Plan and added that instead of promised “bold action”, the government was planning on providing e-cigarettes on the NHS.

I agree that vaping has a role to play in a comprehensive strategy to end smoking. Vaping doubles people’s ability to quit smoking compared with existing nicotine replacement therapy. However, as we know, smoking is highly addictive, and even doubling success means that only a small proportion of smokers who were trying to quit would remain quit at the end of one year. Vaping is not a magic bullet and, although it will increase quitting, it will not prevent youth uptake, as raising the age of sale would.”

She didn’t explain why she thought this was an either-or proposition.

Baroness Finlay then repeated a load of debunked nonsense about nicotine, an attack on e-liquid packaging, “child-friendly descriptors” (whatever that means), adding “such branding is clearly unacceptable; it is targeted at the young.”

It was Lord Moylan who then responded with a plea for evidence-based decision making: “Most of the harmful effects of smoking come not from the nicotine as such but from the smoke. Non-combustible tobacco products do not give rise to any smoke. The Government should be able to say, and make clear in their tobacco control policy, whether there should not be distinct regulations covering, separately, combustible and non-combustible tobacco products.”

The lengthy debate can be read in full here.

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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