A fortnight ago we saw the publication of the government’s post-implementation review of the Tobacco and Related Products Regulations 2016 (TRPR). These are the regulations which govern vaping in the UK after having been transposed from the European Union’s Tobacco Products Directive.
The government has decided that the regulations “met their original objectives and they could not be better achieved through alternative regulatory measures”.
While it is disappointing not to see immediate signs of regulations being relaxed post-Brexit, such as the limits on tank and bottle sizes and a recognition that the limit on nicotine concentration is inadequate as we have commented on before, we are pleased that the UK has not been seduced by more restrictive regulations which are being pursued in other countries.
However, the report did signal amendments to the legislation could be implemented in the future.
“However, the Government will consider further regulatory reforms to TRPR as part of its plans towards meeting its Smokefree 2030 ambition, and to protect future generations from the harms of tobacco. This includes those reforms suggested by respondents to the consultation. Any proposed changes will be based on robust evidence and support improvements to public health.”
We would, of course, hope that any future reforms will be sympathetic to reduced risk nicotine options, but the summary does not exclude putting up more barriers.
As consumers who have experienced the benefits of harm reduction in our own lives, the NNA believes the arguments for relaxing regulations are far more evidence-based than those put forward in favour of imposing more restrictions.
It should be recognised that, although regulations remain as they are for now, by doing so the government has clearly signalled that vaping is beneficial to public health in the UK and that there is no cause for alarm despite misinformation rife in media and elsewhere.
However, we believe the regulations could be improved by relaxing pointless vaping controls which only serve to inconvenience vapers and deter smokers switching, but also by better acknowledging the positive contribution other harm reduction options can provide.
As we explained in our submission to the ongoing Independent Tobacco Review, which you can read here, the only credible approach which would achieve the government’s Smokefree 2030 goal is to go "all in" on tobacco harm reduction to encourage mass-switching to all smoke-free alternatives to cigarettes, not just vaping. Heated tobacco and nicotine pouches are available on the market, but many smokers know little about them, while snus has delivered remarkable results in Scandinavian countries but is subject to an unjustifiable EU-wide ban which should be lifted now we have left the European Union.
We hope that regulations will be amended in the future to remove some of the pointless restrictions on vaping, but also to enable more accessibility and publicity for all non-combustible lower risk products. The NNA will continue to advocate for harm reduction in all its forms as a powerful tool in attracting smokers to safer alternatives.