ASH UK’s Coordinated Comment

Posted 2nd February 2024 by Dave Cross
 ASH UK’s Coordinated Comment lead image
Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) has coordinated a series of responses to the Governments proposals to include interested parties, including Bob Blackman CBE MP, chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Smoking and Health, Dr Ruth Sharrock, the British Heart Foundation, and the Chartered Trading Standards Institute.

Deborah Arnott, ASH’s chief executive, said: “Today’s announcements are a vital stepping stone on the path to ending the smoking epidemic once and for all. The Government’s strategy is the right one: stop smoking initiation, support smokers to quit by using the most effective methods, while protecting children by curbing youth vaping.

“Smoking has caused more deaths than obesity, alcohol, road traffic accidents, illegal drugs and HIV combined and each year kills more people than COVID did at the height of the pandemic. Smoking is the silent killer that hides in plain sight. Ending this scourge on society is long overdue.”

Bob Blackman added: “The All Party Group on Smoking and Health, which I chair, has repeatedly called on government to take much tougher action on smoking and vaping and finally the government has listened. The devil will be in the detail, so we will need to scrutinise the legislation that will bring this to fruition when it is laid before parliament in the days to come.”

When it comes to the ban on disposable vapes, ASH says it was first to raise the alarm about disposable vapes fuelling a growth in underage vaping, after our survey data in 2022 showed an uptick in underage vaping with disposables the majority choice. [1] This trend has continued and in 2023 and 69% of underage vapers said they use disposable vapes. [2]

The charity repeated its previous position that disposable vapes are “widely available for pocket money prices, attractive and easy to use, and environmentally damaging and tough action is needed.

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However, it added, there are significant challenges to making a ban work, and there need to be exemptions for use by healthcare professionals with vulnerable smokers.

Deborah Arnott went on to comment: “Banning disposables when they are so widely used will require strict enforcement to be effective, as illegal vapes are already flooding the market even before a ban.

At the turn of the last century illegal tobacco was out of control, just as illegal vapes are now but the number of illegal cigarettes on sale in the UK fell by 80% between 2000 and 2021 after a comprehensive cross government strategy was implemented. It’s excellent news that the government has updated its strategy for tackling illicit tobacco, but we are yet to see the same strategic approach applied to vapes. Throwing money at the problem is not enough, stopping illegal vapes at the Border, inland and at point of sale requires a thought through intelligence-led strategy.

Dr Ruth Sharrock, Clinical Lead for Tobacco Dependency, North East and North Cumbria NHS Integrated Care Board, stated: “Removing disposable vapes from our toolkit would make it harder to support our most vulnerable smokers. Older smokers, people with learning disabilities and others can find it hard to use refillable products straight away. The immediacy of a disposable vape makes such a difference. It is as if we are taking a cigarette out of their hand and replacing it with a vastly safer product.”

ASH does not explain how you can ban a product but make it available to marginalised group – especially as there is no prescribable vape product in the UK.

Zoovoo

On the new powers to restrict vape flavours, introduce plain packaging and change how vapes are displayed in shops “so that they don’t appeal to children”, Deborah Arnott continued: “The Government is taking vital powers to control the design and promotion of e-cigarettes to prevent them being promoted to children. The comic characters, bright colours and sweet names so appealing to children are unacceptable for products that should only be promoted to adults as an aid to quitting smoking.”

The proposed new law will make it illegal to sell tobacco products to anyone born on or after 1 January 2009. ASH says this aspect of the announcement “is supported by all the leading health organisations including the medical royal colleges, health charities and professional associations.”

An online survey by YouGov for ASH found that two thirds (66%) of adults in Great Britain already support the legislation with only 14% opposed. [3]

Dr Charmaine Griffiths, Chief Executive at the British Heart Foundation, said: “When we have known for many decades that smoking kills, it is utterly unacceptable that smoking continues to take so many lives, causing at least 15,000 deaths from cardiovascular disease every year across the UK. On top of this, smoking is a significant driver of health inequalities, disproportionately affecting the health of the poorest in society.

“Tough measures are needed to put a stop to this ongoing heartbreak, and we welcome the UK Government’s bold proposal to create a smoke-free generation by raising the age of sale for tobacco every year.

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“There is clear public support for this measure and we now urge every MP to support this once-in-a-generation Bill when it is brought to the UK Parliament, and hope to see this policy adopted by administrations across the UK.”

John Herriman, Chief Executive at the Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI), concluded: “CTSI welcome the publication of the response to the Smokefree Generation consultation and the commitment to raise the age of sale for tobacco. This recognises the uniquely harmful nature of the product and we look forward to helping to support businesses in adapting to the change.

“As always Trading Standards Officers will step in and take action against those who persistently flout the law designed to protect our communities from the harms of tobacco and welcome the commitment to add fixed penalty notices to our enforcement toolkits.”

References:

  1. https://ash.org.uk/media-centre/news/press-releases/fears-of-growth-in-children-vaping-disposables-backed-up-by-new-national-survey
  2. The 2023 ASH factsheet on Use of e-cigarettes (vapes) among young people in Great Britain is available at https://ash.org.uk/uploads/Use-of-vapes-among-young-people-GB-2023-vpdf?v=1697209531
  3. The survey was carried out online by YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 4,107 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 15th - 17th November 202 The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+).


 Dave Cross
Article by Dave Cross
Freelance writer, salad destroyer and live culture convert.
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