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Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Health Neil O'Brien fields questions from Labour’s Margaret Greenwood and the Conservative’s Mark Pawsey

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Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Health and Social Care Neil O'Brien fields questions from Labour’s Margaret Greenwood and the Conservative’s Mark Pawsey in the House of Commons. Questions focussed on who is vaping, the impact of e-cigarette use, what financial burden is imposed on the NHS and whether increasing the fines on illegal sales is in the pipeline.

Wirral West’s Margaret Greenwood asked the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care what recent estimate has been made of the number of people under and over the age of 18 who vape in the Wirral and across England.

Neil O'Brien MP replied: “Data is not available at local authority level, including in Wirral. However, data on vaping is available at England level for adults and children.

“The NHS Smoking, Drinking and Drug use among Young People in England publication shows current vaping prevalence among those aged 11 to 15 was 9% in 2021.

“Data from the Office for National Statistics Adult smoking habits in the UK publication shows that in 2022 there were an estimated 3.8 million vapers over the age of 16.”

The Labour MP followed up by asking the Secretary of State what assessment has been made of the potential long-term effects of vaping on the health of people in her constituency and across the country.

Neil O'Brien told her: “The Department has not made a specific assessment of this in the Wirral and England. However, in general the Department’s assessment of the safety of vaping is based upon a series of independent evidence reviews commissioned over the past several years. The most recent and final in the series, the 2022 Nicotine Vaping in England report, was published in September 2022.

“The latest report focuses predominantly on the potential health risks of vaping, and concludes that in the short and medium term, vaping poses a small fraction of the risks of smoking, but that vaping is not risk-free, particularly for people who have never smoked.

“The Government only recommends regulated vaping products to help adult smokers to quit smoking and vapes should not be used by people under 18 or people who have never smoked.”

Finally, Margaret Greenwood asked if the Department for Health has quantified the cost of long-term vaping on the NHS and if not, if it is taking steps to estimate this long-term cost.

Neil O'Brien explained that there are no current plans to calculate such a figure, adding: “Evidence shows that whilst not risk-free, vaping is substantially less harmful than smoking. It is estimated that smoking costs the National Health Service £2.4 billion a year. Helping smokers quit smoking including using tools such as vaping is likely to save the NHS financial costs from the smoking burden.”

Rugby MP Mark Pawsey asked the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care whether he has made an assessment of the potential merits of extending the £10,000 penalties for the sale of illicit tobacco products to illicit e-cigarettes.

Neil O'Brien responded that the current Track and Trace system only covers illicit tobacco. He went on to state: “However, we are currently exploring a range of new measures to tackle illicit vapes as part of response to youth vaping call for evidence. We will publish our response to this shortly.”

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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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