The letter, also addressed to Munira Mirza, Director of No.10’s Policy Unit Taskforce on Health and Social Care, hits on two of the Prime Minister’s electioneering catchphrases: “taking back control” and “levelling up”.
Brexit allows the U.K. the freedom to roll back and improve on policies derived from European Union legislation, as we have recently seen with the draft Tobacco Products and Nicotine Inhaling Products (Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations 2020 [link].
The NNA and Bates make ten proposals for revisions to our tobacco and nicotine policy that, “would promote both public health and personal and economic wellbeing.”
They say: “The idea is to support the government’s stated aim to go smoke-free or to make smoked tobacco ‘obsolete’ by 2030. This is generally taken to mean reducing adult smoking prevalence to below 5%. The goal was raised in a July 2019 government consultation on its preventative approach to health in the following form.”
They believe that smokers should be strongly encouraged to make the switch to low-risk alternatives to smoking by the government.
“E-cigarettes, heated tobacco products, smokeless tobacco and novel oral nicotine products such as pouches…, beyond any reasonable doubt, offer deep reductions in risk to a smoker who switches from cigarettes to any of these products.”
They add, the UK’s approach to tobacco harm reduction, as positive as the government has been, has been limited by “counterproductive European Union legislation”. The NNA and Bates argue that the Tobacco Products Directive creates “disincentives and barriers to switching and has the effect of protecting the cigarette trade and implicitly promoting smoking”.
The letter includes a comprehensive 16-page briefing, detailing proposals for the ten policy reforms:
- Lift the ban on oral tobacco (snus) and properly regulate all smokeless tobacco
- Raise the limit on nicotine concentration in vaping liquids to allow vaping products to compete more effectively with cigarettes
- Replace bans on advertising of vaping products on TV, radio, internet and in publications with controls on themes and placement
- Replace blanket bans on advertising of low-risk tobacco products with controls on themes and placement
- Replace excessive and inappropriate warnings on vaping products with risk communications that encourage smokers to try switching
- Replace excessive and inappropriate warnings on non-combustible tobacco products
- Allow and enable candid communication of relative risk to consumers
- Adopt a fresh approach to pack inserts for both vaping products and cigarettes to encourage switching to lower risk products
- Remove wasteful restrictions on vaping product tank and e-liquid container size that have no discernible purpose
- Recognise and regulate novel oral nicotine products
Clive and the NNA highlight that most of these measures do not require public spending and, even if they resulted in a drop in tobacco excise revenue, would deliver benefits far outweighing the costs.