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UK Government Ecig Report: a “beacon of enlightenment”

The UK Government Science and Technology Committee delivers an amazing report that fully backs vaping and a harm reduction approach to smoking.

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The UK Government Science and Technology Committee has been gathering evidence from experts over the course of 2018. It has produced a report, released today, that presents a ringing endorsement of vaping and promises the possibility of a better future for manufacturers, vendors, vapers and smokers. It was been roundly welcomed by interested organisations.

The report places the United Kingdom in a world-leading position in its approach to combatting tobacco-related harm. No other country has carried out such an intensive investigation solely focussing on facts and data. The result of this examination of verifiable evidence is an unequivocal support for electronic cigarette technology, demands for the relaxing of regulations and encouragement to push harm reduction in areas where there has been resistance.

Members of the committee, who listened to the contributions and looked at all of the evidence includes:

  • Norman Lamb MP (Liberal Democrat, North Norfolk) (Chair)
  • Vicky Ford MP (Conservative, Chelmsford)

  • Bill Grant MP (Conservative, Ayr, Carrick and Cumnock)
  • Darren Jones MP (Labour, Bristol North West)
  • Liz Kendall MP (Labour, Leicester West)

  • Stephen Metcalfe MP (Conservative, South Basildon and East Thurrock)
  • Carol Monaghan MP (Scottish National Party, Glasgow North West)
  • Damien Moore MP (Conservative, Southport)

  • Neil O’Brien MP (Conservative, Harborough)

  • Graham Stringer MP (Labour, Blackley and Broughton)

  • Martin Whitfield MP (Labour, East Lothian)

The committee writes: “Against a background of contradictory national policies towards e-cigarettes and disagreement and apparent uncertainty over the health risks, we decided to examine the evidence on the health impacts and on e-cigarettes’ role as a smoking cessation tool. We received over 100 pieces of written evidence, and held five oral evidence sessions between January and May 2018, hearing from 25 witnesses.”

Upon reviewing this evidence, the report opens gloriously: “E-cigarettes present an opportunity to significantly accelerate already declining smoking rates. They are substantially less harmful - by around 95% - than conventional cigarettes. They lack the tar and carbon monoxide of conventional cigarettes - the most dangerous components. It has also proven challenging to measure the risks from ‘second-hand’ e-cigarette vapour because it is negligible and substantially less than that of conventional cigarettes.”

Vapers and vendors are often accused of claiming that vaping is ‘safe’. It’s a scurrilous distortion of the truth as the vaping community follows the scientific research closely. The common position is more realistically illustrated by the contribution from Public Health England’s Professor Newton: “We avoid using the word “safe,” because that is a very difficult word to use, but there is no doubt that using an e-cigarette regularly is much less harmful than smoking cigarettes. It is important to get that message across, particularly to smokers.”

The New Nicotine Alliance (NNA) welcomed the report “for its clear and unequivocal message that e-cigarettes and other alternative nicotine products are far safer than combustible tobacco and should be treated as such.”

E-cigarettes are a proven safer alternative to smoking and the UK boasts 1.5 million former smokers who have converted from combustible tobacco to exclusively vaping instead. The Science and Technology Committee has wisely recognised that misconceptions about e-cigarettes are threatening further progress in encouraging their use by smokers who choose to quit,” NNA Chair Sarah Jakes told us.

Jakes continued: “We welcome the Committee’s call for a root and branch review of how risk-reduced products are treated by businesses, institutions and government itself. The report is a beacon of enlightenment in an area of public health which is often burdened by dogma and outdated thinking towards the use of nicotine.”

This report dovetails with the government’s Tobacco Control Plan commitment to back innovative products in its drive to encourage smokers to quit, and its recommendations are evidence-based and designed to maximise the benefits of safer nicotine delivery. The World Health Organisation recognises tobacco harm reduction as a guiding principle of its Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, so we welcome the Committee’s call for the UK to become an even greater world leader in this field than is already the case,” added Jakes.

 “There is a lot of confusion about e-cigarettes amongst the public, health institutions and businesses”, said Jakes, “this report is therefore timely and could have hugely positive implications for public health if its recommendations are implemented in full. Sir Norman’s committee has done an excellent job of peering through the mist of misunderstanding surrounding e-cigarettes and its policy proposals can go a long way to dispel the - often deliberately fabricated - misconceptions that are deterring many thousands of smokers from switching. We would urge the government to read the Committee’s findings carefully and act on them without delay.”

The UK Vaping Industry Association (UKVIA) was formed in August 2016 and established itself as the largest industry body in the sector. John Dunne, a witness before the Committee on behalf of UKVIA, informed POTV: “The Science and Technology Committee report is a ringing endorsement of vaping’s public health potential.”

They are absolutely right that advertising restrictions are preventing smokers from hearing the truth. More and more people wrongly believe vaping to be more harmful or as harmful as smoking. This is a direct consequence of advertising restrictions that prevent the industry from telling smokers that vaping is 95% less harmful. If health bodies can say it, why can’t we?”

The industry is pleased to see the Committee recognise the nonsensical packaging and nicotine strength regulations, that only hamper vaping’s potential appeal to smokers looking for an alternative.”

Only recently we were hearing worrying rumours of a supposed tax on vaping. It is therefore encouraging to hear the Committee speak sense in calling for a reduced tax on vaping to recognise its health improvement potential for smokers.”

More research is of course required, and we entirely support their calls for regular, publicly available, evidence reviews. But we already know the harm smoking causes, which is why we must not stifle this important innovation. We look forward to seeing the government’s response.”

Hazel Cheeseman, ASH UK, told Planet of the Vapes: “There remain millions of smokers who are yet to even try an e-cigarette. The Committee’s recommendations to make it easier for e-cigarettes to be licensed as medicines could make a big difference to this.”

“Companies getting licensed e-cigarettes to market will benefit from their products being available on prescription but the those companies that remain in the ‘consumer’ market also stand to benefit. Licenced products would reassure smokers and health professionals that vaping is less harmful than smoking encouraging more people to make the switch.”

The report heralds the triumph of evidence and common sense over disinformation, lies and conjecture. It presents vaping as a major opportunity to clamp down on tobacco-related harm and offers up the prospect of increased support for vapers and vaping.

Could this lead to an end to 2ml tanks, daft nicotine limits, constrictive advertising regulations and punishing licensing regulations? Could this open up public areas and workplaces to how they were before councils, businesses and sports clubs clamped down on us? We encourage Theresa May’s government to adopt the recommendations in full.

Our thread for discussing this monumental report:

The Science and Technology Committee Report on E-Cigarettes:

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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