This week, the government released its Tobacco Control Plan.
This has been long awaited by the vaping industry – until now, we did not really know in what light it would cast our products, or if vaping would even feature in it at all.
My industry colleagues and I absolutely welcome the inclusion of vaping in the Plan, and the surprisingly constructive approach the government seems to be taking to smoking cessation.
The Tobacco Control Plan is so important to smokers, vapers, and those of us in the industry because it begins to correct years of counterintuitive policy that has held back more smokers from switching.
Vaping products were, in hindsight, unfairly incorporated into the same legislation as tobacco products (although they contain no tobacco whatsoever) through the EU’s Tobacco Product Directive. Though these regulations provided many helpful product standards that encouraged better manufacturing practices, they did not fully recognise vaping’s potentially positive public health impact.
This resulted in the contradictory situation where new evidence was mounting that demonstrated vaping’s efficacy as a quitting tool at minimal risk, but regulations for vaping were as strict (if not stricter) than for tobacco products.
No wonder, in this climate of mixed messaging, that the public perception that vaping products are as bad or worse than cigarettes is on the increase.
But the UK’s new Tobacco Control Plan contained within it a commitment to reviewing how our exit from the EU can provide an opportunity to “re-appraise” current legislation with a view towards future deregulation.
There are many ways to reduce and stop smoking: hypnotherapy, cold turkey, Nicotine Replacement Therapy (gums, patches, etc.). But none have had quite the same disruptive power as the entrance of vaping products into the market.
It is interesting that it has been innovations from the private sector, not a medical organisation or publicly funded programme, that has led to such a dramatic fall in smoking rates – all at zero cost to the public purse.
Smokers were looking for a less harmful way to consume nicotine. Product innovation delivered, and now we’re feeling the positive impact on our country’s public health.
One of the reasons given in the referendum campaign for leaving the EU was to cut Brussels-led red tape and have full control over the laws on our statute books. The EU's Tobacco Products Directive represents the perfect place to start.
Our industry has enabled 2.9m smokers to reduce or stop smoking. According to the Office of National Statistics, we still have another 7m to go – and the Tobacco Control Plan is a step in that direction.
Now is the time for Parliament to turn back the tide of this heavy-handed regulation and allow the vaping industry to build on an already thriving, dynamic and innovative consumer marketplace. Only then can we seize this massive public health opportunity.