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When Is A Ban Not A Ban?

Is the government set to do one of its fastest U-turns? Despite briefing behind closed doors that it planned on banning disposables; opposition seems to be shifting Sunak to backtrack

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Forming policy on the hoof by gauging reaction to an idea is nothing new for the last few Conservative Prime Ministers, but it is irresponsible when it comes to public health. Harm reduction, public health and academic experts lined up to caution against an outright disposable vapes ban last week and, if the i newspaper is to be believed, Rishi Sunak is already back peddling.

The Independent British Vape Trade Association typified the response from many in the industry when it released its statement. Chairman, Marcus Saxton, said: “The concerns about young people accessing vapes from retailers who break the law are valid. There is a suite of existing regulations that should be properly enforced with greater funding to those agencies, and it is difficult to envisage how a complete ban would be workable.

“Alternative refillable and rechargeable products are available, and we need to see greater uptake of the recycling facilities available on every high street. But we shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that for adults, single use vapes are important to the initial quit journey away from smoking due to their ease of use. The government have targets to be smoke free by 2030, and it’s difficult to see how banning a whole category supports that.

We’ve detailed the responses from many here on Planet of the Vapes following the government’s half announcement that a ban might be something that is coming – albeit something that no minister was prepared to confirm during a suite of media interviews last. While the Tory administration would be happy to brush off concerns if the move swung public opinion in their favour in the polls, swinging attacks from their own side is proving to be something Sunak can’t afford to ignore.

The Daily Telegraph, as true blue a mouthpiece as it’s possible to get, eviscerated the suggestion of a ban.

This vaping ban is our trivial, mindless elite at its worst,” wrote the Telegraph’s parliamentary sketchwriter, Madeline Grant. Grant, previously a heavy smoker, has managed to become (by and large) smoke-free thanks to vaping.

The Government’s imminent ban on disposable e-cigarettes may seem trivial, but it’s a vivid example of making the perfect the enemy of the good,” she writes, detailing how adults enjoy flavours too. In fact, research shows this is the reason why vaping is so successful (alongside replicating the act of smoking).

Then, illustrating the lack of thought that has gone into this ban proposal, she adds: “It would be absurd to outlaw booze for all ages just because some children manage to sneak a bottle of Frosty Jack’s or Glen’s Vodka from the iffy offy down the road, yet a vape ban would follow the same logic. Surely the solution is to enforce existing regulations, not create brand-new ones?

Tearing a strip from PM Rishi, Grant goes on to say: “Perhaps this is typical behaviour for a government in its death throes, redolent of John Major’s traffic cone hotline?”

Come Monday, presumably following frantic meetings where they all agreed something should be done to avoid it being seen as them backing down or admitting to the thoughtless measure, news drifts out from the Palace of Westminster that they have managed to create an almighty dog’s dinner – disposable ecigs will be absolutely banned…except for disposable ecigs that the NHS will hand out to current smokers as part of the NHS “Swap to Stop” scheme. These, one assumes, are single use vapes that have some kind of medical certification of NICE recommendation or the MHRA seal of approval for clinicians to prescribe? Of which there are *checks notes* none.

There are contracts, though. Signed and sealed business contracts between local authorities and disposable vape manufacturers. Signed and sealed legally binding business contracts. Signed and sealed legally binding business contracts that the government didn’t think about when it said it would ban disposable vapes.

Signed and sealed legally-binding business contracts, “worth almost £550,000 in total, several of which are not due to expire until mid-2025”, according to the i.

The Department for Health has got so much right when it came to vaping and tobacco harm reduction, now its work is going up in flames because of limited intelligence and a quest for another term in office is superseding acting in the public’s best interest. It has been gripped by the emotive Bloomberg-funded arguments about colours and flavours, and forgotten all about constructing evidence-led, coherent policy.

We will set out our response in due course,” said a completely unwilling to be named government member of the Department for Organising Drinking Events in a Beer Making Facility.

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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