Parliamentary Questions

Posted 6th March 2020 by Dave Cross
Labour’s Barry Sheerman was keen to discover the Department of Health and Social Care’s position on the health risks posed by vaping, teenage use of ecigs and the marketing of vape products to young people. Given he cited a study by the University of Texas, and the MP for Huddersfield East hasn’t any connection to committees that discuss tobacco harm reduction, many may wonder what instigated this flurry of hysterical inquiry.

Sheerman asked: “What assessment has [the Secretary of State] made of the health risks of vaping and e-cigarettes?”

He followed this up with: “What steps he is taking to reduce the uptake of vaping and e-cigarettes by (a) young people and children and (b) other non-smokers?”

And finished: “With reference to the results of research of the University of Texas and University of North Texas, Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems Marketing and Initiation among Youth and Young Adults, published in August 2019, what assessment he has made of the implications for his policies of the (a) health risks of vaping to young people and (b) role that advertising plays in promoting vaping to young people?”

As we wrote last week [link], there has been a dramatic increase in the number of questions being posed to the Department of Health and Social Care that have a negative take on tobacco harm reduction and vaping. Some have wondered if this has anything to do with anti-vape Professor Martin McKee and his university department that receives funding from billionaire Bloomberg’s Vital Strategies organisation.

Fortunately, the government appears to be holding firm with its approach to vaping’s role in smoking cessation – relying on evidence instead of manic puritanism.

Jo Churchill, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Health and Social Care, replied to Sheerman: “It remains the goal of the Government to maximise the public health opportunities presented by e-cigarettes to reduce smoking while managing any risks. United Kingdom regulated e-cigarettes are far less harmful than smoking, but they are not risk free. Research shows e-cigarettes are effective in helping some smokers to quit.”

“While experimentation with e-cigarettes is not uncommon among young people,” she continued, “current and regular use remains low. E-cigarettes in the UK are tightly regulated by the Tobacco and Related Products Regulations 2016 (TRPR) and the Nicotine Inhaling Products (Age of Sale and Proxy Purchasing) Regulations 2015 (NIP). These regulations aim to reduce the risk of harm to children; to protect against any risk of renormalisation of tobacco use; and to provide assurance on relative safety for users. The regulations include restrictions on mainstream TV and radio advertising; prevent sale to under 18s; and limit both tank sizes and nicotine content.”

“We continue to monitor evidence on e-cigarettes. As part of that, we are monitoring youth use closely and will take action, if necessary, to ensure that regular use among children and young people does not increase, and that e-cigarettes do not become a gateway to tobacco use. The Government has a statutory obligation to conduct post implementation reviews of TRPR by May 2021 and NIP later this spring. We continue to keep the evidence base on e-cigarettes under review and the next Public Health England annual review on e-cigarettes will be published next month,” Churchill concluded.


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