Following an extensive inquiry into e-cigarettes, a new report by the Science and Technology Committee has concluded that the government is missing significant opportunities to tackle UK smoking rates.
Among the recommendations, the Committee urges the government to consider tax breaks for vaping products; allowing wider use of vaping in public places; and creating a streamlined route to medically licenced vaping products.
It also calls on the government to reconsider the regulations around e-cigarette packaging and advertising. Advertising rules currently prevent the industry from making health claims comparing vaping to smoking. The Committee believes this is stopping UK smokers (almost 7 million), from making informed decisions about switching to vaping, considered to be 95% less harmful than cigarettes.
The report also states that restrictions on nicotine strength, tank size and bottles is not founded on scientific evidence and should be urgently reviewed.
John Dunne, a witness before the Committee on behalf of the UK Vaping Industry Association (UKVIA), said: “The Science and Technology Committee report is a ringing endorsement of vaping’s public health potential.
“They are absolutely right that advertising restrictions are preventing smokers from hearing the truth. More and more people wrongly believe vaping to be more harmful or as harmful as smoking. This is a direct consequence of advertising restrictions that prevent the industry from telling smokers that vaping is 95% less harmful. If health bodies can say it, why can’t we?
“The industry is pleased to see the Committee recognise the nonsensical packaging and nicotine strength regulations, that only hamper vaping’s potential appeal to smokers looking for an alternative.
“Only recently we were hearing worrying rumours of a supposed tax on vaping. It is therefore encouraging to hear the Committee speak sense in calling for a reduced tax on vaping to recognise its health improvement potential for smokers.
“More research is of course required, and we entirely support their calls for regular, publicly available, evidence reviews. But we already know the harm smoking causes, that is why we must not stifle this important innovation. We look forward to seeing the government’s response.”
The UK became an early adopter of vaping technologies, with the nation’s smokers keen to adopt an alternative to smoking. Entering the market in 2007, by 2012 there were already 700,000 vapers in the UK and this figure has currently reached nearly 3m people, over half of whom have given up smoking entirely.