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Parliament focusses its attention on the use of vaping for tobacco harm reduction and looks at actions overseas

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Parliament focusses its attention on the use of vaping for tobacco harm reduction and looks at actions overseas – both in Norway and at the World Health Organisation’s Conference of Parties. Notably, there is an ongoing delay in the publication of the Tobacco Control Plan.

The Tobacco Control Plan should have been published by now and Mark Jenkinson, MP for Workington, asked the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care whether it is expected to be published before 2021 ends.

Maggie Throup, Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Health and Social Care, responded: “We are undertaking further policy development to support the Tobacco Control Plan, which will be published in due course.”

There has been no indication what is holding up its publication.

Mark Pawsey, Rugby’s representative in Parliament, asked whether the UK delegation to COP9 planned to request the formation of a Working Group to hear evidence on the use of vaping devices as harm reduction tools.

Maggie Throup told him the UK Government had no plans to do so. Despite promising to set out “our pragmatic and evidence-based approach to e-cigarettes”, it proved to be a weak outing for the UK in an area where we lead the world.

Martyn Day, MP for Linlithgow and East Falkirk, asked the Secretary of State if there was an implication for policy changes due to USA’s decision to give snus the status of a reduced risk product.

Throup responded that no assessment had been made and the sale of oral tobacco remains banned in the United Kingdom.

Rosie Cooper, West Lancashire, asked if vaping had contributed any progress towards meeting the Government's Smoke-free 2030 target and what further steps are being made.

Maggie Throup said: “The Department is considering a range of policy and regulatory changes to achieve our ambition to be smoke-free by 2030. These will be set out in our new Tobacco Control Plan, which we will publish in due course.”

Alex Sobel, Shadow Minister for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, wondered what assessment has been made “of potential harms caused by the use of geek bar disposable vape devices”, and what steps have been taken to ensure that children under the age of 16 are not buying and using them.

Maggie Throup replied: “The Medicines and Healthcare Regulatory Agency (MHRA) is the United Kingdom’s competent authority for ensuring that e-cigarettes, including geek bars, legally sold in the UK are compliant with regulations. They must also not resemble a food or a cosmetic product and must adhere to limits on nicotine strength. It is also illegal to sell an e-cigarette product, including geek bars, to anyone aged under 18 years old.

“We will continue to work closely with the MHRA, Trading Standards and other regulatory enforcement agencies to ensure that products sold in the UK comply with these regulations, and for non-compliant products to be removed from the market. We will act if we see a rise in prevalence amongst children and/or if there is a public health risk from counterfeit or illicit products.”

Dame Margaret Hodge wanted to know if the Department of Health has looked at how Norway has managed to halve its rate of smoking from 2 per cent to 1 per cent in 2020 among 18-24 year olds.

Maggie Throup assured her that the Department continues to monitor developments and that it would “continue to promote the use of nicotine replacement therapy and e-cigarettes as a way to quit smoking.”

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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