Politics & Campaigns

Branding and Promotion Under Attack

The branding, promotion and advertising of vape products is under attack once again from a member of Parliament and her Ten-Minute Rule Motion

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The branding, promotion, and advertising of vape products is under attack once again from a member of Parliament. This time it is the turn of the British Labour Party MP, representing Dulwich and West Norwood, Helen Hayes and her Ten-Minute Rule Motion.

The debate for her motion has been listed as upcoming business and will take place in the Commons’ Main Chamber on 5 September 2023.

No details of her proposals have been presented to date, but we can ascertain the line of attack from Helen Hayes’ recent contributions to the debate over under-age vaping that took place in the House of Commons on 12 July 2023 in which she shared common ground with the Conservative MP Dr Caroline Johnson and her push to ban disposable vapes.

During her contribution she alleged that vaping is causing physical and mental health damage to teens, disrupting their education and draining schools of resources.

Caroline Nokes spoke about the important role of vapes in smoking cessation. There is no disagreement from the Opposition on that. I am not so grateful to her for taking me back to the revolting smoke-filled environment of the toilets in my secondary school in the 1980s, which is a memory that I had long since sought to banish,” she said.

She agreed with Chair of the Health and Social Care Committee Steve Brine when he claimed vaping caused exams to be disrupted – but her following comment should raise eyebrows: “Maggie Throup highlighted the sophistication of the packaging, design and presentation of vaping products in retail outlets and how attractive that makes them.”

Clearly, Helen Hayes wants to see products that are unappealing to adult smokers.

She said she thinks that disposable vapes have a negative on the environment and have increased in plastic pollution before citing “My hon. Friend Mrs Hamilton” [Labour, Erdington] who “spoke from her experience as a former nurse and highlighted the serious problem of vaping equipment being used to distribute more dangerous substances by young people.”

This willingness to conflate issues is troubling, especially as Helen Hayes has even questioned “the accuracy of data on the safety of vaping”.

She commented: “Vaping has shifted from a smoking cessation tool to a recreational activity in its own right, driven by the rapacious desire of tobacco companies—which fund many of the largest vape suppliers—to keep making a profit from the highly addictive substance of nicotine.

Again, ignoring the lack of evidence to support her claim that vaping is to blame, she continued: “The important role of vaping in smoking cessation has led to a widespread perception that it is a harmless activity, rather than a less harmful activity than smoking. Last year, 40 children were admitted to hospital for suspected vaping-related disorders.”

Questioned about the inclusion of a vaping age limit in her forthcoming Motion, Hayes said: “Vaping products are marketed directly to children, named after sweets such as gummy bears, Skittles and tutti frutti, in brightly coloured packaging decorated with cartoon characters. There is also evidence, including from research undertaken by one of my constituents who I met during evidence week last week, of the burgeoning growth in vaping among 18 to 25-year-olds, almost entirely unrelated to smoking cessation. A new generation of vaping products has been designed to be desirable objects in their own right. If action is not taken to tackle the accessibility of vaping to children, we can only expect vaping among young adults to continue to grow.”

She said that measures to combat smoking were well known and should be applied to vaping: “Under the last Labour Government, all point-of-sale advertising and display of tobacco was prohibited. A comprehensive anti-smuggling strategy was implemented by HMRC and the UK Border Force, which dramatically reduced sales of illicit tobacco, and cigarettes were put in standardised packaging, with all the brightly coloured glamourised packaging removed.”

Helen Hayes finished her speech by indicating how her party intends to move forward if it wins the election: “Labour is calling on the Government to ban vapes from being branded and advertised to appeal to children, and to work with local councils and the NHS to help ensure that e-cigarettes are used as an aid to stop smoking, rather than as a new form of smoking and addiction. It is inexplicable that the Government are resistant to those entirely proportionate and evidence-based proposals. If they will not act to protect children and young people, the next Labour Government certainly will.”

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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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