Politics & Campaigns


Questions to ministers about tobacco harm reduction and vaping in the House of Commons

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This week’s questions to ministers about tobacco harm reduction and vaping in the House of Commons could see the last appearance of some ministers of state. Who knows who the Prime Minister may bring in next now he’s worked his way through the backbenches, into the Lords and possibly having to resort to recruiting some TikTok influencers.

Stephen Morgan, Labour’s Shadow Minister for Defence, Armed Forces and Defence Procurement, and Transport, asked the Secretary of State for Education whether consideration has been given to the potential merits of including in statutory guidance on relationships, sex and health education a requirement for pupils to be taught about the health risks associated with e-cigarettes and vapes.

Nick Gibb, Minister of State for Education and not a previous member of the Bee Gees, told Morgan: “On 1 June 2023, the Prime Minister announced an intervention which will take steps to prevent children obtaining e-cigarettes illegally. The Department is planning to include a specific reference to the dangers of e-cigarettes in the amended relationships, sex and health education (RSHE) curriculum.

“The RSHE statutory guidance, which sets out the curriculum topics, already states that in primary and secondary school, pupils should be taught the facts about legal and illegal harmful substances and associated risks. This includes smoking, alcohol use, and drug taking. To support schools to deliver this content effectively, the Department published a suite of teacher training modules, including drugs, alcohol and tobacco, which makes specific reference to e-cigarettes.

“In addition, drugs, alcohol and tobacco are taught in compulsory health education. This supplements drug education which is part of the National Curriculum for Key Stages 2 and 3 science.

“Schools are required by law to have a behaviour policy that sets out what is expected of all pupils, including what items are banned from school premises. This should be communicated to all pupils, parents and school staff.

“Schools have the autonomy to decide which items should be banned from their premises, and these can include e-cigarettes. Items banned by the school can be searched for as outlined in the department’s searching, screening and confiscation guidance.

“The Department believes that this will help head teachers to manage the use of e-cigarettes on school premises and to inform young people about the risks, with a view to reducing the numbers of pupils who are currently using e-cigarettes, or who might be tempted to try it in the future.”

Yes, that is an identical answer to the one he gave Labour’s Alex Cunningham a few weeks ago, leading some to believe Ministers could be replaced with a tailor’s dummy and a looped voice recording.

Ruth Jones, the Labour Shadow Minister for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs chanced her arm by asking the DEFRA Secretary of State how many disposable vaping products were sold in England in each year since 2010.

DEFRA Under-Secretary of State Rebecca Pow helped to edify the House by telling it that the Department “does not collect or hold data on the number of disposable vapes sold in England.”

Pow didn’t explain is this was a lifestyle choice or not.

Finally, Preet Kaur Gill, Labour’s Shadow Minister for Primary Care and Public Health, asked the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care what estimate has been made of the number of people who use vapes as an aide to stop smoking cigarettes and who did not previously smoke by age/gender/ethnicity/socio-economic status and integrated care system location.

To his credit, although the Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Health didn’t have an answer to hand, Neil O'Brien did promise to prepare one for “as soon as possible”.

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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