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Sunak would Deliver "Murder and Mayhem"

Sunak’s authoritarian overreach on e-cigarettes is more likely to lead to "murder and mayhem" than be a fix for youth vaping, according to Dr Colin Mendelsohn, this year’s recipient of the Michael Russell Award

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Sunak’s authoritarian overreach on e-cigarettes is more likely to lead to “murder and mayhem” than be a fix for youth vaping, according to Dr Colin Mendelsohn, this year’s recipient of the Michael Russell Award at the Global Forum on Nicotine (#GFN24) in Warsaw. The statement should echo in the ears of the UK’s next Prime Minister.

  • UK politicians say they will revive the Tobacco and Vapes Bill after the election
  • This Bill seeks to clamp down on vaping, introducing the ability to restrict flavour choice, as well as other punitive measures
  • In Australia, restrictions on vapes are already so harsh as to amount to prohibition
  • Australia now has one of the highest youth vaping rates in the Western world
  • Criminal gangs control the vape market, with fire-bombings of shops, homicide, extortion and other criminal activity
  • 90% of vape products in Australia are illicit and unregulated

With a general election only weeks away, the UK is facing down the barrel of a gun as both Labour and the Conservatives contemplate draconian measures on safer nicotine products like vapes.  Draconian measures that in countries, like Australia, have seen the rise of criminal turf wars and gang violence. 

The power to ban flavours in vapes is one of the measures in the UK Tobacco and Vapes Bill. The government also intends to introduce a steep new vape tax in addition to the 20% VAT currently being levied. 

While well intended, highly restrictive regulations just don’t work”, Dr Colin Mendelsohn told delegates at the Global Forum on Nicotine today. “But British politicians are clearly not paying attention and have learned nothing from the mayhem unfolding in other parts of the world.

Dr Mendelsohn is Founding Chairman of the Australian Tobacco Harm Reduction Association charity, and he is this year’s recipient of the Michael Russell Award.

History has shown that harsh restrictions on a popular product simply send it underground. People find other ways of getting it. In Australia, the regulations of e-cigarettes are so onerous that they are effectively banned. There is now a thriving and violent black market. Fire-bombings are commonplace. People are being murdered. The government has effectively handed control of the market to organised crime, and rival gangs are engaged in a turf war to control market share.”

In the UK, although the Tobacco and Vapes Bill didn’t survive the pre-election ‘wash-up’, both main parties said that they would revive it.  The ‘wash-up’ is the term used to describe the process by which legislation that is close to completion is pushed through when an election is called. Legislation that is not close to completion, like the Tobacco and Vapes Bill is abandoned, but can be revived by the in-coming government.

Prohibitive, draconian measures on vape products in Australia have to date seen three murders and around 80 fire-bombings of tobacco shops selling illegal product. 90% of vape products are illicit and are completely unregulated.

Australia now has one of the highest youth vaping rates in the Western world”, according to Mendelsohn.

Australia’s experience shows that highly restrictive policies lead to substantial unintended, harmful consequences. Politicians have a responsibility to understand the effect the policies they are pushing are likely to have in the real world. When policy fails, the costs – monetary or otherwise – can be significant.

“The UK has been a world leader in tobacco harm reduction and sensible, evidence-based policies have dramatically reduced smoking rates and improved public health. These proposed policies threaten to undermine that progress and should be carefully reassessed before it is too late”, Dr Mendelsohn said.

Photo Credit:

  • Images from Unsplash

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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