Vape Questions In Parliament

Posted 22nd November 2018 by Dave Cross
Further questions about vaping have been asked in the House of Commons and the House of Lords. Lord Vaux was keen to push the hysterical American approach to regulation, but was knocked back. The rest of the questions demonstrate how Parliament has a mature approach to harm reduction.

In the House of Commons, Philip Davies MP asked the Secretary of State: “Whether heated tobacco products will be included in the annual Public Health England report on e-cigarettes; and when that report will be published?”

Steven Brine MP responded: “Public Health England will continue to publish its annual independent academic reviews of the evidence on e-cigarettes up to the end of the Parliament in 2022.”

“The most recent review, published in February 2018, considered the available literature for heated tobacco products but evidence for these products was in its infancy and mainly published by the tobacco industry.”

He added that the government would welcome the submission of published findings on heated tobacco products and will consider whether there is enough new evidence to provide a synthesis in each of the future annual evidence reviews, the next being due in early 2019.

In the House of Lords, Lord Birt enquired if the government planned on reviewing the packaging regulations “to ensure that the packaging does not appeal to children.”

Lord O'Shaughnessy replied that the current regulations currently ensured protection from use by children. He confirmed that electronic cigarette packaging and refill containers may not resemble food or cosmetic products, and that advertising codes “ensure advertisers do not target or feature children, or include content which is likely to appeal particularly to children.”

Lord Vaux asked: “whether [the government] have any plans to restrict or ban the advertising or sale of flavoured nicotine vaping fluids?”

Lord O'Shaughnessy reasserted his reply to Lord Birt, adding: “strong controls are already in place.”

This wasn’t sufficient for Lord Vaux, a British American Tobacco shareholder, who continued: “The regulations do not seem to be working. Flavours include bubble gum, sherbet lemon, unicorn blood and strawberry delight, and come in colourful packaging with cartoon characters and pictures of sweets, for use with high-tech shiny gadgets. It would be hard to design something that was more appealing to children.”

“According to recent tests, four in 10 retailers are willing to sell without age restrictions. In the US, the FDA says that underage use has surged recently and reached epidemic proportions.”

And then Lord Vaux went full crank: “Does the Minister agree with the commissioner of the FDA, who said: ‘I believe certain flavours are one of the principal drivers of the youth appeal of these products’? Will he please look again at the rules and how they are enforced, just as the US is now doing aggressively, before we too have an epidemic of childhood nicotine addiction?”

Lord O'Shaughnessy slapped down Vaux by replying: “Only 2% of 11 to 18 year-olds are using once a week. Generally, those are young people who smoke already—around 7% of 15 year-olds smoke.”

“America did not restrict tank sizes until recently, but we did; it did not restrict bottle sizes, but we did; it did not ban advertising, but we did; and it does not have restrictions on nicotine, but we do. We have a very sensible system.”

“I am not complacent about the need to make sure that young people do not use, which we are not seeing yet, and there are severe restrictions and punishments for any retailer who sells such products to children.”

Clive Bates, harm reduction advocate, commented on the reply that rejected the “reckless and evidence-free call to limit attractive options available to people who do not wish to smoke.” Then continued: “Because no government should stop people protecting their own health and well-being through their own choices, at their own expense.”

Back in the House of Commons, the DUP’s Jim Shannon was back to posing questions. First he wondered what support the Department of Health and Social Care provided to organisations that support people to stop smoking through the encouragement of the take-up of vaping. Then he asked Steven Brine: “what steps his Department is taking to promote Public Health England’s advice to allow vaping indoors?”

Brine’s response name-checked the New Nicotine Alliance and the work it has done with the National Centre for Smoking Cessation and Training. Then he said: “Public Health England produced advice for organisations to create vaping policies that are right for them. The advice included the following five principles; to make clear the distinction between vaping and smoking; to ensure policies are informed by the evidence on health risks to bystanders; to identify and manage risks of uptake by children and young people; to support smokers to stop smoking and stay smoke free; and, to support compliance with smokefree law and policy. The guidance was shared with stakeholders when published, and the documents are available to view. Using this advice, organisations can decide whether they will allow vaping indoors.”

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