Charity welcomes MPs call for Government to maximise the potential from e-cigarettes



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17 August 2018

Charity welcomes MPs call for Government to maximise the potential from e-cigarettes

Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) today welcomes the recommendations of the Science and Technology Select Committee [1] to maximise the potential for e-cigarettes to help smokers quit.

The call for an improved process to speed up the licensing of e-cigarettes as medicines is particularly welcome given the significant potential for licensed products to support thousands of smokers to completely switch to vaping.

In evidence to the Committee ASH [2] highlighted the potential for licensing e-cigarettes to further reduce rates of smoking by:

  • Providing reassurance to health professionals and the public about the safety and efficacy of e-cigarettes;
  • Helping motivate use among the 40% of smokers yet to try them [3] and;
  • Allowing products to be prescribed by doctors. This is particularly important to those on low incomes and with high levels of addiction

Deborah Arnott, Chief Executive of ASH said:

“The UK has an effective regulatory model for e-cigarettes which we should be proud of. However, today’s call to improve the process to enable e-cigarettes to be licensed as medicines is extremely welcome. E-cigarettes have already helped many smokers to quit, but they could help many more. Licenced products could transform the public’s understanding of e-cigarettes and help many more smokers see vaping as a viable alternative to smoking.”

Other recommendations from the Committee include calls for the regulations governing existing products to be reviewed. There is an established timetable for reviewing the regulations and in evidence to the Committee, ASH made it clear that existing regulations had not caused major problems for most users but there is potential to improve them when the time comes.

The Committee also urged a rethink on advertising, recommending a liberalisation of the current rules to allow companies to make comparative health claims. The Committee on Advertising Practice (CAP) and Broadcast Committee of Advertising Practice (BCAP) consulted on changing the rules in this way in September 2017 [4]. Nearly a year later, the outcome of that consultation is yet to be published and must be without further delay. ASH supports allowing companies to make evidence-based comparative health claims and hopes this will help to address the misperceptions of harm from e-cigarettes held by too many smokers. [5]

Despite generally welcoming the Committee’s recommendations ASH has some concerns about the suggestion that tobacco companies be allowed to market their e-cigarettes in packs of cigarettes. Tobacco companies have a long history of exploiting marketing opportunities for commercial advantage and they currently make around £1 billion in profit from combustible products in the UK alone [6]. In Canada, pack inserts are used by the Government to promote quitting and the tobacco industry has no say in their content [7]. The UK Government should consider mandating pack inserts in a similar way, with inserts created by public health professionals rather than the tobacco industry.

ENDS

Notes and Links:

Action on Smoking and Health is a health charity working to eliminate the harm caused by tobacco use. For more information see: www.ash.org.uk/about-ash

ASH receives funding for its programme of work from Cancer Research UK and the British Heart Foundation.

ASH staff are available for interview and have an ISDN line. For more information contact ASH on 020 7404 0242 or out of hours Deborah Arnott on 07976 935 987 or Hazel Cheeseman on 07754 358 593.

References:

[1] Science and Technology Committee Report on E-Cigarettes https://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/commons-select/science-and-technology-committee/inquiries/parliament-2017/e-cigarettes-17-19/

[2] ASH evidence to the committee:
Written evidence: http://data.parliament.uk/writtenevidence/committeeevidence.svc/evidencedocument/science-and-technology-committee/ecigarettes/written/75354.html
Additional written evidence http://data.parliament.uk/writtenevidence/committeeevidence.svc/evidencedocument/science-and-technology-committee/ecigarettes/written/81387.html
Oral evidence: http://data.parliament.uk/writtenevidence/committeeevidence.svc/evidencedocument/science-and-technology-committee/ecigarettes/oral/80955.html

[3] ASH Smokefree GB survey conducted by YouGov, 2017 http://ash.org.uk/download/use-of-e-cigarettes-among-adults-in-great-britain-2017/

[4] CAP/BCAP, E-cigarette advertising consultation, September 2017
https://www.asa.org.uk/resource/e-cigarette-advertising-consultation-september-2017.html

[5] ASH Smokefree GB survey conducted by YouGov, 2018 http://ash.org.uk/media-and-news/press-releases-media-and-news/ash-to-present-new-data-on-e-cigarettes-to-science-and-technology-select-committee/

[6] Branston, JR & Gilmore, A 2015, The extreme profitability of the UK tobacco market and the rationale for a new tobacco levy. University of Bath. https://researchportal.bath.ac.uk/en/publications/the-extreme-profitability-of-the-uk-tobacco-market-and-the-ration

[7] Images of Canada’s pack inserts available here: http://www.tobaccolabels.ca/countries/canada/