The dialogue was recorded in Hansard, the edited verbatim report of proceedings in both the Commons and the Lords. The conversation took place in response to Viscount Ridley tabling “Oral question 2: Relation of 2014 EU Tobacco Products Directive to giving up smoking via use of vaping devices”.
Ridley is a zoologist, humanist and has written many popular science books. The Viscount is well informed on the subject of vaping having previously called for it not to be treated as a medicine and has spoken at length to originator Hon Lik for The Spectator.
Last October, in his online blog, Matt called Article 20 of the Tobacco Products Directive an “idiotic attack on vaping”. Presciently, he foreshadowed the current calls emanating from recent revelations regarding the taxing of ecigs, in his piece: “If you are one of the country’s three million vapers, or you know somebody who you would like to give up smoking, then you should probably vote to leave the EU in the referendum next year. I cannot see another way to unpick the lethal regulations in Article 20 and instead come up with sensible regulations that protect consumers while encouraging innovation and accelerate switching from tobacco.”
In the Lords, Ridley requested the Parliamentary Under-secretary of State for Health to: “ask Her Majesty’s Government what effect they expect Article 20 of the 2014 EU Tobacco Products Directive, when implemented in May, to have on the rate at which people give up smoking by the use of vaping devices.”
Rather than provide a direct response to a simple question, Lord Prior replied: “The Tobacco Products Directive, which will come into force from May this year, will provide a new regulatory framework for vaping devices and e-liquids, assuring their safety and quality. The Government recognise that e-cigarettes can help people to quit smoking and that quitting smoking completely is the best thing a smoker can do for their health.”
Despite Ridley thanking Prior for his “helpful reply”, it was anything but and so he tried a different tack with two subsidiary questions: “The Prime Minister said in the other place that 1 million people have given up smoking as a result of taking up vaping ... given that the public health benefits are in the order of £74 billion, and given that the main loser from this is the pharmaceutical industry, which is seeing falls in the sales of patches and gums, does he agree with me that pharmaceutical industry lobbying may be behind the attempt to regulate these products too heavily and possibly to shackle them with an excise tax? Could he give a Department of Health estimate of the size of the black market that is likely to result from this directive and whether or not it will result in people going back to smoking?”
As can be seen from the video, many other members of the House gave supporting statements for vaping as a means of harm reduction – but clarity was not forthcoming from the government’s representative, just a reliance on tired sound bites, except for the false assertion: “there is no proposal for an excise duty as part of the tobacco directive.”
What is clear from Brampton’s replies is the fact that it is irrelevant whether the UK remains or leaves the European Union: “If we ever want to sell into the European market, we will have to abide by those regulations ... I do not believe that the origins of this directive have anything to do with limiting competition; they are based in trying to have a regulated market where safety and quality are guaranteed.”