Politics & Campaigns

UK Disposables Ban One Step Closer

Dr Caroline Johnson presented her 10-Minute Bill to Parliament with the support of two ex-Health Secretaries and has progressed to the next legislative stage

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Dr Caroline Johnson presented her 10-Minute Bill to Parliament with the support of two ex-Health Secretaries and has progressed to the next legislative stage. The MP for Sleaford and North Hykeham had the support of MPs including Andrea Leadsom, Caroline Lucas, Maggie Throup, and Steve Brine among others. The action is notable for the number of Conservative politicians in favour of banning an aspect of vaping, a party hitherto committed to tobacco harm reduction and free markets.

I beg to move,” began Dr Johnson, also a consultant paediatrician, “that leave be given to bring in a Bill to prohibit the sale of disposable electronic cigarettes; and for connected purposes.

E-cigarettes were billed as a health revolution—as something that could be held like a cigarette and puffed on like a cigarette, and would provide a nicotine hit in the same way as a cigarette, but without containing the tar and the other carcinogenic compounds that are known to cause cancer. In theory at least, they were designed as a quitting aid, like nicotine gum, to wean smokers off cigarettes, but sadly they have attracted a far wider following. The Office for National Statistics estimates that in 2021 there were more than 4 million vapers in the UK, and the number is likely to have risen since then.”

Dr Johnson raised fears about vaping appealing to non-smoking teens, citing the recent NHS survey indicating an 18% usage rate.

But the doctor went on to espouse some deeply troubling opinions, equating vaping with the history of smoking: “Those who defend vaping often focus on the relative lack of health complications compared with smoking. On the use by children, some have even suggested that it is better for them to be vaping than smoking. As a doctor, those arguments concern me. E-cigarettes are very new, and some Members of this House may recall that there was once a time when cigarettes themselves were considered safe. E-cigarettes contain known carcinogens, cytotoxins and genotoxins. Studies from Harvard University and Boston University have linked vaping to the sort of constrictive bronchitis and cardiovascular effects similar to those experienced by cigarette smokers.”

Then she went on to mention the source of her information, Professor Andrew Bush, a man responsible for some seriously flawed anti-vape work. He “described” to her “the adverse health effects in children and how there have been cases of young people requiring intensive care for severe complications from vaping.”

And misinformation is nothing if it doesn’t also quote from “a recent investigation by the Daily Mail” linking vaping with “a range of diseases affecting the heart, blood and nervous system, as well as impairing brain development in young people and increasing the risk of anxiety disorders.

She said, “public health messaging is clear”, but then proved it clearly isn’t because the best she could utter was that “E-cigarette use is possibly not as bad for you”. [POTV’s emphasis in bold]

Wrapped up in the language of protecting teens and the environment came the tired old myths about flavours, colours, marketing, and sports team sponsorship.

The question one must ask is how sustainable all those shops would be if vapes were supplied only to former cigarette users for a temporary period while they are quitting, and not to new teenage nicotine addicts,” she continued.

I fear that a new national health crisis is brewing under our noses. I am not the first person to call for restrictions on e-cigarettes. In an open letter to the Government, a number of environmental and health groups including the RSPCA, the Green Alliance and the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, of which I am a member, called for a ban on single-use vapes. Many US states have imposed restrictions on them, followed by China, Japan, Brazil and most recently Australia.”

The Bill was read for the First time and is now slated to be read a Second time on Friday 24 March, and to be printed (Bill 246).

The question companies and vapers have to ask themselves is, given the language used and the support Dr Caroline Johnson has garnered, would any restriction on the sale of disposables stop at that – or would the wild and unsubstantiated objections about vaping in general then be used for further bans? This might be a good time to lend your support to the New Nicotine Alliance.

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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