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Sunak Pledges To Destroy Vaping

Conservative Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has announced a raft of illiberal measures aimed at combatting youth vaping which will hit every aspect of vaping and tobacco harm reduction

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As predicted by Planet of the Vapes over the last two years, Conservative Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has announced a raft of illiberal measures aimed at combatting youth vaping which will hit every aspect of vaping and tobacco harm reduction. A lack of action by the industry has fed into a situation whereby the Government will change the face of the UK’s vape industry forever and destroy our reputation for being a world leader in tobacco harm reduction.

Rishi Sunak’s plans for vaping in a nutshell:

  • A ban on disposable single-use vapes
  • Eliquid flavours to be restricted
  • All products to have plain packaging
  • Vapes and juices to be hidden from young eyes
  • A tax of at least 25% on vape products

Later today, Monday 29 January, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak will visit a school and stand on a large toy box or something so he can reach the podium. He will announce “ambitious government plans to tackle the rise in youth vaping and protect children’s health” because Chinese disposable vapes manufacturers sat back and did nothing.

Planet of the Vapes has been demanding for two years that disposable ecig manufacturers addressed collection and recycling, and the use of recycled components in order to address environmental sustainability. Over this time we have been met with indifference or just ignored. We pointed out that it would have a direct impact on vaping in the UK – and it brings POTV News absolutely no pleasure in being proven correct.

The United Kingdom has led the world in its approach to tobacco harm reduction and a strict adherence to evidence-based policy making, an approach that was set to be thrown out of the window before the first submission was made to the Government’s consultation on smoking and vaping, launched in October last year.

The mood music in Parliament had changed. What was once a supportive environment for harm reduction advocates, building on a long and proud history of using harm reduction techniques, most notably with the approach to the Aids outbreak in the 80s, soured as the voices of hysteria were allowed free reign as MPs realised they needed general election soundbites.

Recent figures show the number of children using vapes in the past three years has tripled,” Sunak will say today. It’s true, but it’s disingenuous and masks a real terms figure and fails to map that to the volume of adult smokers who have used vapes to quit tobacco.

The long-term health impacts of vaping are unknown and the nicotine contained within them can be highly addictive,” he will add as if parroting from a Michael Bloomberg emotive crib sheet.

We don’t know the long-term impacts – we do know the long-term impacts of continuing to smoke and we also know that vaping has prevented many teens from experimenting with tobacco.

“[Vaping] withdrawal sometimes [causes] anxiety, trouble concentrating and headaches,” Sunak will wibble. But you know what, Rishi? We know smoking kills.

Disposable vapes have been a key driver behind the alarming rise in youth vaping,” he will add, shamefully failing to mention the studies conducted during the Covid lockdowns demonstrating that disposables helped people experiencing homelessness quit smoking while every previous approach had failed. He will also ignore the experience of NHS trials where disposables were successfully given out to patients or the research demonstrating huge successes with patients in mental health units.

He will continue: “As part of today’s package, new powers will be introduced to restrict flavours which are specifically marketed at children and ensure that manufacturers produce plainer, less visually appealing packaging. The powers will also allow government to change how vapes are displayed in shops, moving them out of sight of children and away from products that appeal to them like sweets.”

The notion of banning disposables garnered a lot of support in the vape community and with a group of small, medium and large business owners. Single-use products hit them squarely in the profit margin and they didn’t like that one bit. But, as many said, most recently researchers at University College London last week, a ban will deliver unintended consequences.

  • Unintended consequence No.1: As a business, how are you going to make your eLiquid an attractive proposition if everyone is restricted to (according to Departmental sources) tobacco, mint, menthol and “fruit”? Bonus question for 10 points: Can someone please define what the flavour profile of “fruit” is? We’re willing to bet the Prime Minister can’t.
  • Unintended consequence No.2: As a business, how are you going to differentiate your products from others on the market in a plain package after having spent so long developing your brand identity?
  • Unintended consequence No.3: If businesses begin to fail, as they surely must with these proposals, what does this mean for the trade bodies who represent them and accept membership fees from them?
  • Unintended consequence No.4: If smokers see harsh measures being taken against vaping, and 75% already don’t think vaping is far safer than smoking, what will this mean for quit attempts?

To crack down on underage sales, the government will also bring in new fines for shops in England and Wales which sell vapes illegally to children. Trading standards officers will be empowered to act ‘on the spot’ to tackle underage tobacco and vape sales. This builds on a maximum £2,500 fine that local authorities can already impose,” the Government proudly exclaims.

Nobody is going to complain about illegal sales prompting larger fines, it’s what the industry associations have been calling for, but how are Trading Standards going to cope? As it is, in another article this week, a Freedom of Information research project by Vape Club uncovered the scale of the problem with the supply of illicit vapes – and underfunded council Trading Standards departments are only scratching the surface.

It's a policy without the resources to be implemented, it’s a flight of fancy from a party in power who know they won’t be accountable when it’s discovered it had no impact.

Teens buy non-MHRA registered vapes illegally from illegal sources supplied by dodgy geezers. Dodgy geezers are already breaking the law. Dodgy geezers will continue to break the law – our knowledge of the history of prohibitions tells us this is true.

Ahh, but he will go on to promise: “To help ensure the success of the smokefree generation plan, £30 million new funding a year will be provided to bolster enforcement agencies – including Border Force, HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) and Trading Standards – to implement these measures and stamp out opportunities for criminals.”

All the patients and NHS hospital administrators still waiting for the 40 brand new General Hospitals we were all promised might not believe that £30 million will appear in a hurry. Those still waiting for levelling up funds or infrastructure projects in the North might well nod in agreement.

As any parent or teacher knows, one of the most worrying trends at the moment is the rise in vaping among children,” Rishi will say. Maybe some of them do. Maybe a lot of them do. But research experts have said a ban is illogical and won’t work. Action on Smoking and Health have said it is the wrong choice. The New Nicotine Alliance has pointed out the impact on ex-smokers and smokers far outweighs the impact on teens.

There was overwhelming support among responses to the government’s consultation for a disposable vape ban, with nearly 70% of parents, teachers, healthcare professionals and the general public supportive of the measure,” Sunak will say.

Watch closely when he does, his nose will be growing.

This isn’t just about trying to liberate votes from the gullible or misguided, there is a strong puritanical aspect to this from those who are either ex-smokers (like Andrea Leadsom) or fervently believe all use of nicotine is some kind of sin.

Vapes should only be used by adults as a tool to quit smoking,” Health and Social Care Secretary Victoria Atkins will say.

Note, she believes you shouldn’t enjoy vaping or continue after you have quit smoking. Like a patch or spray, Atkins wants vapers to discard their mods as soon as possible. It’s “Swap to Stop” with an emphasis on the STOP.

Health Minister Andrea Leadsom will say “We are in the midst of a worrying rise” and “I want to stop youth vaping in its tracks” and “Nicotine is highly addictive”. But Health Minister Andrea Leadsom would say that because she co-signed a 10-Minute Bill to ban disposables a year ago, long before she became the Health Minister in charge of vaping. Ex-smokers seem to hate smokers not going cold turkey like they proudly say they did.

Environment Secretary Steve Barclay will say: “Disposable vapes … represent a huge and growing stream of hard-to-recycle waste, with nearly 5 million thrown away every week. This historic announcement will be a powerful tool in support of our efforts to crack down on waste and boost recycling.”

Will it Steve? Will it though?

Vape companies have finally cottoned on. A raft of products were released to market last year featuring original designs aimed at environmental sustainability. There were ones made from recycled components, modular ones to aid recycling, and even one made from cardboard instead of plastic.

Even ElfBar, a perennial breacher of advertising regulations and supplier to supermarkets of illegal non-MHRA complaint products, eventually got the message (despite ignoring ours) and announced a collection service.

Too late, yes, but the indications were there that the sector could change and now had the motivation to do so. A little bit of legislation here could have reaped dividends.

But no. Teens will buy non-MHRA registered vapes illegally from illegal sources supplied by dodgy geezers. Dodgy geezers, already breaking the law and not giving a damn about collecting spent units from people who know they bought illegal products and will continue to lob them in the bin or on the pavement.

Like guaranteeing the safety of the products, with this ban the Government has washed its hands of any responsibility or control over collection and disposable.

It could have been so different. It could have been so much better.

No one will mention the 25% tax this week, this is going to be Jeremy Hunt’s big treat come the pre-Budget media leaks that he’ll deny leaking because it will annoy the Speaker of the House. Not a 25% tax on disposables that many had been calling for – because they’re banned – and not a 25% tax on the illegal products that will continue to flood into the UK like they do in India, Thailand, Australia and everywhere else that has proved bans don’t work. No, we will pay that tax. Smokers looking to quit and ex-smokers, we will face a huge hike in costs simply because we enjoy nicotine and want to limit our exposure to harm.

And what has the last thirteen years of Planet of the Vapes News taught us about the imposition of taxes on reduced harm products like vapes? It reduces use and encourages switching back to cigarettes. This has been demonstrated by idiot politicians around the world over and over for a decade plus. Our outstanding independent researchers in the UK know this, which is why they said it should only be applied to disposable products to dissuade teen use. Our outstanding independent researchers who absolutely will not have been part of Conservative Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s “nearly 70% of parents, teachers, healthcare professionals and the general public supportive of the measure.”

Smoking is the UK’s single biggest preventable killer – causing around one in four cancer deaths and leading to 80,000 deaths per year,” Rishi Sunak will remind us. For shame that he has forsaken smokers’ lives for this exercise in folly. And shame on the opposition parties who will not vote against the Bill when presented to the House.

Vaping will appear less attractive to smokers today because of these measures and that’s sad, very sad indeed.

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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