Today the UK Government’s long awaited Tobacco Control Plan was published and is encouraging reading for those who, like us, have an interest in tobacco harm reduction. Although the plan is short on detail there is some emphasis on a pragmatic, harm reduction approach, rather than on further punitive measures intended to force smokers to quit - although those already in place are set to continue.
The plan sets out some ambitious targets, including the goal of reducing smoking prevalence in England from 15.5% to 12% (or less) by 2022. It concentrates on reducing prevalence in pregnancy, among mental health patients and on reducing variations among different regional or socio-economic groups.
The foreword to the report hails the UK’s success in reducing the prevalence, and thus the harms, of smoking. These achievements are attributed to “world leading public health measures”. However, there is one glaring omission in the list which follows - the fact that the UK is also a world leader in its pragmatic approach to vaping, a pragmatism which has led to very significant numbers of smokers in the U.K. switching to the much safer alternative. Perhaps the omission is because the U.K. Government doesn't deserve to make that claim yet, as it enthusiastically embraced the EU TPD, stands by silently whilst vape bans proliferate, and clings to the illogical ban on another risk reduced product, snus.
The latest Tobacco Control Plan though, gives us hope that at least some of these issues can be addressed. The government's commitment to review the TRPR, with a view to altering those provisions which relate to e-cigarettes, and the commitment to communicate accurate information about the relative risks of harm reduced products are, in particular, to be applauded. We hope to be heavily involved in that process.