Professor John Britton, director of the UK Centre for Tobacco and Alcohol Studies at Nottingham University and the UK Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA)’s panel on e-cigarettes, spoke about how flavours were important vapers and to getting current smokers to switch. He said: “If you restrict the flavours, you may restrict the tolerability of vaping to people trying it for the first time, but you will also lose an awful lot of smokers. One suggestion is for vaping companies to club together to get flavours licensed. This would give these companies a marketing advantage and perhaps set their shareholders’ concerns about future litigation at rest. Most vaping companies are small and can’t afford the time or investment in to get a flavour through the medicine licensing process.”
Britton believes the Department of Health will maintain its pragmatic stance on vaping and access to flavours. Also, he highlights how the common-sense approach appreciates the financial constraints the independent sector operates under.
“The only way that could happen would really be if a number of companies grouped together and applied for a common licence for a particular flavour or set of flavours. Then you would have something that would be safe to medicinal standards and at that point you can stop worrying about it.”
“If you look at the list of flavours that are available in the UK, it’s huge. It would be very hard to argue that all of those are necessary but how do you then say ‘this one is OK and this one isn’t’? You could say ‘OK, no flavours’ in which case you will make vaping unacceptable to most vapers. Or you could say ‘we’ll allow a limited list of, say, half a dozen flavours’. But how do you decide what those should be? There is no way of saying that cinnamon is safer than orange. I don’t see how you draw the line.”
Vapers appreciate how important flavours were to them successfully quitting smoking, but the scare stories in the media has impacted on the numbers of smokers looking to make the swap. It’s never been more vital that the government continues to support and promote vaping.
The Scotsman reports that “the number of smokers in Scotland is on the rise for the first time in seven years”. Figures show smokers looking to quit has dropped from 55,322 to 50,962 over the last year, as funding for stop smoking campaigns dropped from £552,975 to £55,223.
This trend has been noted for England too, by researchers from University College London. Lead author Dr Claire Garnett said: “the fall in the number of smokers trying to quit, alongside the decline in the use of stop smoking services showed the need to reinstate and improve easy to access effective services. The decline in the proportion of smokers trying to quit or cut down is a worrying trend and may reflect budget cuts on tobacco control, including mass media expenditure and stop smoking services. These are known to be effective and it is a false economy to be cutting back on these."
Positive encouragement, variety of flavour choice and clarity of message is vital in reversing this recent trend in smokers – things that the committee must consider as an imperative.
- Changes in smoker characteristics in England between 2008 and 2017 by Garnett et al. – [link]