Advocacy in the UK

Posted 15th July 2016 by Dave Cross
They say that a bulb glows brightest before it dies and that the sky is darkest before dawn. The mind demands that monumental ends are accompanied with something suitable, something befitting its import. The final act for the UK’s fight against the Tobacco Products Directive (TPD) was more akin to a damp firework going ‘pffft’ on November 5th.

“So in the space of a few weeks,” wrote blargh75 on the POTV forum, “it's gone from having a chance to kill off the regs to not even voting to say they aren't happy with them.”

Motions of regret were moved by Lord Callanan, Lord Hunt of Kings Heath and Baroness Walmsley and, despite not compelling the government to act, would have placed the views of the upper house on record. These motions could have demonstrated cross-party condemnation for legislation that is set to restrict independent business, future product development and public understanding.

Lord Callanan was set to challenge and fatally wound the TPD in a move that drew a flourish of support for a petition from vapers. But his fatal motion was withdrawn and, in the lead up to the regret debate, enthusiasm and support on social media wilted. There is a palpable sense that now, for all but the few staunch campaigners remaining, the war for vaping is over.

“Was a great debate and definitely worth a watch if you haven't seen it,” said Vapetek.

The motions being debated were:

  • Lord Callanan (Conservative), on the grounds that restrictions of advertising of vaping devices were devised before evidence had accumulated that vaping was enabling individuals to quit smoking.
  • Lord Hunt of Kings Heath (Labour), on the grounds that these regulations will not be accompanied by a public information campaign to reassure smokers that electronic cigarettes are less harmful than normal smoking.
  • Baroness Walmsley (Liberal Democrat), on the grounds that an advertising ban on electronic cigarettes would hinder promotion of such devices as a way of assisting smokers to stop smoking tobacco.

Following a long delay, Callanan began by presenting his motion to the House: “That this House regrets that the Tobacco and Related Products Regulations 2016 place restrictions on product choice and advertising of vaping devices, were devised before evidence had accumulated that vaping was enabling many people to quit smoking, run counter to advice from the Royal College of Physicians to promote vaping and are so severe that they could force vapers back to smoking and create a black market with harmful products; and calls upon Her Majesty’s Government to withdraw them.”

As Callanan explained, there is cross-party concern for the aspects of the TPD relating to vaping: “No one likes these rules, so why implement them?” He went on to cite blunders by Edwina Curry with Snus and then the Department of Health’s medicines agency, the MHRA, failure to get one medically regulated ecig to market.

“Displaying a marvellous gift for understatement, the Royal College of Physicians this year declared that the MHRA’s policy had been counterproductive to public health’,” he continued.

But then we know the history; we know the arguments in favour of vaping. We’ve been living this fight over the years and hoping at each turn that common sense would finally have its day. We would be filled with hope, like football supporters at the start of a season, only to have it dashed and look to start again.

And this is the positive statements in the House turned as Baroness Hollins made her contribution: “Noble Lords should be aware that the Royal College of Physicians does not support the Motion. The Royal College of Physicians, together with ASH, the BMA, Cancer UK, the Royal Society for Public Health and the UK Centre for Tobacco and Alcohol Studies all support the TRPR, including the regulation of e-cigarettes.”

There is a genuine fear that to change the aspects relating to ecigs, the government would have to scrap the measures being taken against cigarettes. It is for this reason we can witness ‘them’ scrambling for reasons to justify the TPD. Limits on nicotine not providing for the needs of smokers looking to quit? They just need to vape more. Advertising being banned? They just need to look out for buses.

With the motions withdrawn, we are left with a confused and illogical approach to regulation. Are you angry? Sad? Been made to feel ambivalent about the whole thing? Why not share your feelings in the thread on the forum.

The full debate can be watched here and the full transcript is available to read here.


 Dave Cross
Article by Dave Cross
Freelance writer, physicist, karateka, dog walker