Stimson, who is also the founder and Director of Knowledge-Action-Change1, is a believer in harm reduction and open dialogue. He is the power behind the Global Forum for Nicotine, an annual event where experts meet and share information about tobacco harm reduction.
His essay2 explains that as the UK is no longer constrained by European legislation, new opportunities are now open for the nation to increase its focus on tobacco harm reduction. Stimson begins by pointing out the shortcomings in the mindset embodied by Robert Branston, Deborah Arnott, and Allen Gallagher3.
While they limit their list of hopes to taxation and regulation measures, Stimson says this oversight is “odd”, because it “significantly ignores incentives to help people to switch from smoking by using safer nicotine products.”
The omission is all the more glaring when one notes the government has already said, “we will look to identify where we can sensibly deregulate without harming public health or where EU regulations limit our ability to deal with tobacco. In particular, the government will assess recent legislation such as the Tobacco Products Directive, including as it applies to e-cigarettes, and consider where the UK's exit provides opportunity to alter the legislative provisions to provide for improved health outcomes within the UK context”4.
One key area Gerry Stimson points to is that of snus. Banned under the EU Tobacco Products Directive, snus actually has, “decades of large-scale epidemiological evidence regarding its safety”.
This constitutes one part of the 10-point action plan produced by leading UK-based nicotine consumer charity the New Nicotine Alliance5, which suggested the government could:
- 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
Finally, Stimson talks about how the UK, “a world leader in tobacco harm reduction”, should now use its position and successes not just to expand harm reduction provision in the UK, but to speak up on the world stage.
The UK has been all but silent on harm reduction at the biennial World Health Organization Conference of the Parties meeting of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control.
“The Convention (Article 1d) states that harm reduction is one of the three elements of tobacco control alongside demand and supply reduction, something that the WHO FCTC Secretariat and world governments have ignored.”
While parts of the government are very open to Stimson’s ideas, it remains to be seen if it will act in the best interest of vapers and current smokers.
- Knowledge-Action-Change - https://kachange.eu/
- Post-Brexit opportunities for tobacco policy reform and tobacco harm reduction in the UK, Gerry V Stimson - DOI: 10.1016/j.drugpo.2021.103139
- What does Brexit mean for UK tobacco control?, by Branston, Arnott, and Gallagher – DOI: 10.1016/j.drugpo.2020.103044
- Towards a Smoke-free Generation - https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/630217/Towards_a_Smoke_free_Generation_-_A_Tobacco_Control_Plan_for_England_2017-2022__2_.pdf
- NNA writes to the UK government suggesting post-Brexit reforms - https://nnalliance.org/nnanews/news/344-nna-writes-to-the-uk-government-suggesting-post-brexit-reforms