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Town Hall Ignorance

A new report from the Freedom Association has unveiled a shocking level of ignorance in local government when it comes to vaping and tobacco harm reduction

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A new report from The Freedom Association's 'Freedom to Vape' campaign highlights the shocking ignorance in town halls across the UK. Almost two thirds of councils are ignoring government advice and have refused to review their e-cigarette policies.

The Freedom Association says: “A clear majority of councils refuse to listen to advice issued from Public Health England, repeated in the Department of Health's Tobacco Control Plan, which recommends that e-cigarette use is not covered by smokefree legislation and should not routinely be included in the requirements of an organisation’s smokefree policy.”

“Most councils are ignoring evidence from the Royal College of Physicians that e-cigarettes are at least 95 per cent safer than smoking combustible tobacco, and almost three quarters of councils are not planning on allowing councillors a say.”

In total, 391 councils responded to a freedom of information request – a successful response rate of just under 94 per cent. The key findings of this research show that:

  • 126 councils (32 per cent of those who responded) require vapers to use designated smoking areas in all or some circumstances, despite that fact that vapers are not smokers. This is an increase from 112 councils in 2016.
  • When asked if councillors are due to debate the Government’s Tobacco Control Plan and/or PHE’s advice on vaping policies, a total of 287 councils replied no.
  • When asked if the council’s policy will be reviewed as a result of the Government’s Tobacco Control Plan, 150 councils either said yes, was scheduled for review later this year or in 2018, or that the policy was under review – a measly 38% of those councils who replied.

Clive Bates, Director at Counterfactual Consulting, and former director of Action on Smoking and Health (ASH), read the report and said: “The message to councils is ‘think before you ban’. When people are vaping, it’s almost always because they’ve quit smoking, cut down or are trying to quit. Given it’s barely noticeable in most situations, maybe councils should stop treating vapers like pariahs, get behind their efforts to quit smoking, and consider the effect of forcing them back outside with the smokers."

Politician Mark Pawsey, Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for E-Cigarettes, added: “E-cigarettes are an incredibly effective tool for smokers looking to quit. Many organisations, including councils, erred on the side of caution when this new technology came on to the market but as repeated studies have shown vaping is considerably safer than smoking. If the only way a smoker can quit is through the use of an e-cigarette we should do all we can to assist those efforts, not hinder them.”

“Public Health England have stated that e-cigarettes are 95% safer than tobacco and the Government made the positive decision to feature them in this year’s Stoptober campaign so the tide is certainly turning. I would hope that councils would look again at their policies and ensure that vapers are not treated in the same way as smokers thus jeopardising their chances of giving up tobacco for good.”

Andrew Allison, Head of Campaigns at The Freedom Association and the report's author, commented: “Many councils have gone backwards, retreating to their bunkers rather than listening to advice from Public Health England and the Royal College of Physicians. E-cigarettes are the number one stop smoking aid in the UK. Councils should be encouraging and promoting vaping as a successful way to stop smoking. An overwhelming majority of councils need to accept that their policies are out of date and urgently review them.”


  • The Freedom Association – [link]
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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