Quitters are increasingly turning away from less effective traditional Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT) smoking cessation methods, though a continued decline in the smoking rate highlights the success of vaping for cigarette smoking cessation.
According to the latest Public Health England (PHE) data, the number of smokers setting a quit date using traditional NRTs through the NHS Stop Smoking Services hit a record low of 3.5% in 19/20, down from 7.3% in 13/14. That’s a 52% drop in six years. The figures show that just 1.8% of smokers using the service successfully quit after four weeks in 2019/20. This represents a 51% decrease from 13/14.
Despite this, the percentage of people in England smoking has continued to fall, and currently sits at an all-time low of 13.9%. The new data highlights the ever increasing role of vaping as a smoking cessation tool, with people increasingly taking smoking cessation into their own hands.
The number of ex-smokers who now vape has risen from 11.7% to 12.3%.
The PHE data comes as a new study warns quitting smokers of the potential for relapsing this Christmas — alcohol is the third-most common factor in cigarette cravings, according to the Quitting Smoking for Mental Health Study conducted by the UK's largest online vaping retailer, Vape Club. 25% of ex-smokers state cravings are at their strongest when drinking alcohol.
Ex-smokers highlight the greatest causes of cravings
Alcohol follows mental health pressures as the leading triggers for cravings. Cited by 40.8% of study respondents, stress is the strongest driver of temptation, followed by anxiety (28.9%). Such issues have been acutely felt during the pandemic, with mental health charity Mind finding that 60% of adults suffered more mental health problems during lockdowns. See the full study here.
Other significant factors include socialising with active smokers, which affects 19% of ex-smokers, and depression, which tempts 17% of respondents to light up.
From your experience, when do you most get cigarette cravings? (Select up to three)
When drinking alcohol – out with friends/family
While out with active smokers
I do not get cigarette cravings
When drinking alcohol – at home
When suffering workplace burnout
When experiencing an episode of poor mental health
Dan Marchant, founding UKVIA member and director at Vape Club, says:
“With the New Year coming we’d expect to see plenty of new years resolutions to finally quit smoking for good. The figures show us that if people are intending to quit, they will be turning to newer forms of alternative nicotine delivery and smoking cessation methods"
“Of course, Christmas is always a difficult time to do it: for numerous reasons. There’s lots of socialising and drinking at this time of year, which naturally leads to smoking for some people. Others might find it a stressful time, when families can easily get caught up in little arguments. The other thing is that many people will see Christmas as their last hurrah before quitting in the New Year. So if people are aiming to quit right now, they should bear in mind that it’ll take lots of willpower.
"Studies have shown that vaping is far more effective than old fashioned NRT’s at enabling smokers to quit. And with the recent news from the NHS that they hope to soon be prescribing vaping products to people looking to ditch the habit, we hope that many more smokers will benefit from the incredible harm reduction potential of vaping, and leave cigarettes behind."
Dr Zirva Khan, a GP in North Staffordshire’s Loomer Road Surgery, says:
“Unfortunately because of the pandemic, many healthy lifestyle changes people had started to make including smoking cessation, abruptly came to a halt. Education needs to be holistic, and not just focussed on the health benefits, but social and financial advantages too. Another big issue to tackle is that smoking cessation services need to be accessible. Services have become centralised and there is no incentive for people, employers or organisations to tackle smoking cessation. Smoking cessation services ideally should also be trained to signpost people who access them to other relevant services to tackle the underlying reason of why they are smoking. For some it is indeed a choice, for many others it’s their escape from their difficulties”.
-Article Provided by Distinctly PR
A number of newspapers have reported on Friday’s announcement by the Secretary of State for Health, Sajid Javid, that medicinal licensing of e-cigarettes may be more of a possibility after guidance was changed by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA). The story appeared on the front page of no fewer than four national dailies.
While this is a ground-breaking policy proposal, and rightly described as world-leading by Mr Javid, there is much more to it than the media headlines suggest. Social media has been abuzz with a diverse range of opinions on what this entails so here is an explainer.
Firstly, this is not a change in current policy, nor is it an instant guarantee that doctors will begin to prescribe vaping products. Instead, it is billed as a streamlining of the process by which the MHRA would accept a vaping product to be licensed for medicinal purposes. You can read the new guidelines on the MHRA site here.
It is important to note here that if you smoke and want to stop, there is no need to wait for a vape on prescription, not least because the Under-Secretary of State estimated in parliament yesterday that the process from application to approval would take 18 to 24 months. Go into your local vape shop now and ask for help to choose a product that’s right for you. They’ll be happy to help
There have been regular calls in recent years by public health bodies for the MHRA to make it easier for manufacturers to register a product for this purpose. Regulations are incredibly strict which has severely deterred companies from pursuing this route. The only products gaining approval up to now were those submitted by a tobacco company which never made it to market, presumably to test the system. The new guidance seeks to address this by lowering those barriers.
There is some uncertainty if this will be the outcome as the MHRA has placed a number of conditions on measuring nicotine delivery which are unrealistic, but presumably those matters will be ironed out at some point, or the proposal will fail at the first hurdle.
Consumers will rightly be concerned as to how this will play out. Considering the long-term stated ambition of some public health groups to see e-cigarettes medicinally regulated, there will understandably be a level of suspicion at this new development. Consumers who fought the EU Tobacco Products Directive nearly a decade ago will remember that medical licensing was the primary aim for many health groups in this and other member states and resisting it was a focus for early adopters of reduced risk products in the UK who subsequently set up the NNA to speak for the rights of consumers here.
The issue of value for money must also be addressed. The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) assesses whether the taxpayer is best served by interventions supplied by prescription on the NHS, and it is not yet known what their view may be on this announcement.
There is then the selling of the idea to GPs and health practitioners who may be resistant. This is no easy task considering a survey commissioned by Cancer Research UK two years ago revealed significant reluctance to endorse vaping due to perceived doubt about long-term effects.
Consumers, in general, would agree that a prescribed product will most likely be bland and uninspiring due to precautionary barriers imposed by authorities; that smokers are quite able to cover the cost of a starter kit considering the high price of cigarettes (a reaction widely held on social media); and that smokers do not consider themselves ill so why the need for a medicine?
On the other hand, for many less well-off smokers – of which there are many due to prevalence being overwhelmingly amongst lower socioeconomic groups – the risk of spending even the modest outlay for a starter kit will prove prohibitive if they are unsure if it will work for them. While the NNA has written regularly of the need to abandon the upper nicotine limit of 20mg/ml for e-liquid now we have left the EU, there has not been any movement by government so far to change that and we know that heavier smokers require the higher kick than 20mg can provide. Medical licensing may afford an option for strengths higher than those available as consumer products.
It could also provide assurance to sceptical GPs and other medical staff that vaping is nothing to be afraid of for smokers looking to quit. This is important as where doctors lead on health issues, history tells us that the public tends to follow.
As consumers, we should be very wary of this proposal being employed by public health organisations to insist that it is the only way of bringing vape products to market. Vaping products and accessories should continue to be sold as consumer products under a twin-track approach, as recommended by PHE since 2014. It is also important that the sale of other safer nicotine options such as nicotine pouches and heated tobacco are not restricted or encumbered by the new policy.
And snus, as we have consistently advocated, should be legalised at the first opportunity to correct the indefensible mistake made by the UK and the EU to ban its sale in the 1980s and 1990s.
On a political level, Mr Javid’s announcement and support for vaping is very good news. It re-emphasises that government and NHS support e-cigarettes as a harm reduction strategy. The message coming directly from the Secretary of State for Health is also a timely reminder that the UK delegation to the WHO FCTC’s Conference of the Parties (COP9) meeting in early November should resist any efforts by anti-vaping activists to impose binding bans or restrictions on vaping products. We trust they will take heed and do so.
While the media headlines were overly simplistic, this proposal is a positive one, albeit one which poses more questions than it provides answers. It is a development to be welcomed but progress towards it should be watched with care.
The NNA heartily welcomes the dramatic intervention of 100 specialists in nicotine science, policy and practice who have submitted a letter this week criticising the WHO for their objections to tobacco harm reduction.
They make a number of recommendations for the WHO which should be heeded. To ensure that tobacco harm reduction is adopted as a goal of the WHO worldwide rather than insisting on prohibition or stringent restrictions; to properly assess the potential of reduced risk products as a significant driver of smoking cessation where they are allowed to flourish; to recognise the damaging consequences of the WHO’s current prohibitionist approach towards harm reduction; to stop excluding valid stakeholders, including consumers, from debate on spurious grounds; to review the current precautionary approach and the unintended consequences it is creating; and to review the WHO’s current counterproductive approach to tobacco control.
In our view, this is well overdue and it is to the signatories’ credit that they are speaking up.
The WHO has been acting for far too long now as if reduced risk products have no effect on smoking prevalence when we know from data around the world that they are making a huge difference where traditional tobacco control methods of taxes, restrictions and bans have failed. The denial cannot continue if the WHO is to be seen as seriously invested in reducing the harms from combustible tobacco use.
It is telling that the expert signatories, drawn from every continent in which the WHO operates, have found the prohibitionist approach so exasperating that they have come together to make a stand.
The NNA was formed of consumers who have seen their lives dramatically improved due to reduced risk products but not only are we excluded from the debate but also actively pursued for having the temerity to diverge from the prevailing orthodoxy amongst global tobacco control that “quit or die” is the only option for smokers. We vehemently disagree with this, as we have always done, especially as the stunning results in countries which have allowed safer nicotine alternatives to compete with cigarettes prove that we are on the right side of history.
The voices in favour of harm reduction are growing, just as they did in the same debate about harm reduction towards drugs and HIV in previous decades. Relying on carefully selected research to justify policy that does not deliver results can only hold back real-life evidence of the efficacy of harm reduction for so long. Sooner or later, the WHO must face reality or face their own irrelevance in the modern world.
We are pleased to see many UK voices included in the 100 signatories. The UK is a global leader on tobacco harm reduction and the NNA hopes that not only does it stay that way, but that the government continues to put faith in reduced risk products as an example to the rest of the world on how to reduce the number of smokers, at little cost to the taxpayer but with maximum results.
This can be done by the UK standing up for our world-leading approach at the upcoming COP9 and ordering the formation of a Tobacco Harm Reduction Working Group to properly assess the science rather than present the shoddy evidence base that the WHO is currently providing, and which these 100 experts rightly object to.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) is a threat to vapers, not just in other parts of the world, but in the UK too. Consumers have a role to play in protecting reduced risk products that have benefitted us so much and could do for many more smokers in the future.
NNA is issuing a call to action for consumers to write to their MP, with these requests:
We have some wording suggestions when you write to your MP which you can read here.
To explain, here is a whistle stop guide to what the threats from the WHO are and why this is important.
There is a lot of consumer misunderstanding about the WHO and its upcoming ninth Conference of the Parties (COP9) meeting, which is understandable because it is opaque and restricted from the public despite relying on taxpayer funding (the UK is the biggest funder of the FCTC). The COP meetings are held every two years. The latest was scheduled for The Hague in 2020 but was postponed till this year due to COVID. It is now taking place virtually in November, with an abridged agenda and reduced working hours. This is dangerous as it makes it even more opaque.
The “Parties” in question are government signatories to the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), which is a legal treaty ratified by over 180 countries. Each of those countries – including the UK which is no longer represented at the meetings by the EU and free to speak for itself - sends a delegation to the COP to decide the future of global policy towards tobacco products, but also recently e-cigarettes and other reduced risk alternatives.
Decisions cannot be waved away by politicians
The COP Secretariat – which provides background and guidance documents to the government Parties - is extremely hostile to safer nicotine products. Despite harm reduction being one of the three pillars of policy strategies agreed when the FCTC was formed in 2003 and explicitly mentioned in the text of the treaty, it is conspicuously absent of late now that discussions on new and emerging products are on the table. The WHO and the FCTC have been recommending restrictive policy before exploring potential pros and cons of such an approach and ignore countries that have regulated safer nicotine products successfully, such as the UK which has achieved the lowest smoking prevalence ever.
As a legal treaty the FCTC’s contents are binding on governments to implement, however, further decisions made by the Parties at COP meetings can guide governments politically to take them into account when forming national policies. The COP does not make laws itself, but it strongly advises Parties to create policy based on the legally binding provisions of the treaty. Decisions at any COP meeting cannot just be waved away by politicians, they are highly influential – largely because to become a COP decision, governments must take part in the consensus decision. Any COP decision means that all governments participating have given consent to that decision.
Treating safer products the same as smoking
The materials being provided to the Parties for consideration at COP9 by the Bureau are absurd, consisting of cherry-picked research to demonise reduced risk products while completely dismissing any potential benefits of harm reduction. They seek nothing less than railroading parties into treating every alternative nicotine product the same as smoking. This includes bans on public use, restrictions on packaging, flavour bans, taxation the same as cigarettes and worse (which we shall come to). The WHO and the FCTC Secretariat are seeking to influence government delegations to take decisions in the absence of any other strong government direction – the UK should take that role together with other strong harm reduction countries.
The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Vaping held an inquiry into COP9 earlier this year and one of the prime recommendations in its March report was for the UK delegation to COP9 to “establish a Working Group to look at the science and evidence for new and emerging products”. Procedurally this requires the UK to put the proposal on the table and ask other government Parties to support it on the basis of the solid science on which the UK bases its decisions.
A ban on open systems and all products the same
This is incredibly important because if a more balanced assessment of evidence on vaping and other products is not presented to the parties, they will only have the WHO study group on tobacco product regulation report (TobReg) and the WHO Global Tobacco Epidemic Report 2021 to go on.
TobReg advocates for flavour bans as mentioned, but also a ban on open tank systems. It recommends that heated tobacco should not be classed as a reduced risk product so should be treated as smoking, while also claiming that switching to vaping is not smoking cessation. It does this by completely dismissing Cochrane evidence reviews - renowned as the highest standard for health research – which state that e-cigarettes work better than nicotine replacement therapy for smokers looking to quit.
TobReg also recommends that vaping should be regulated based on “nicotine flux” – their back-up plan if they don't get away with banning open systems. This involves removing any possibility of customisability so that all products will basically end up being the same, because in order to control flux, you would essentially have to put limits on everything!
And, most recently, there has been a proposal to redefine smoke as anything heated which “emits aerosols visible to the naked eye” for e-cigarettes to be classed as tobacco products and therefore be regulated, taxed, and banned the same in every respect.
Basically, denying the entire concept of harm reduction.
The COP Secretariat has produced an agenda for COP9 which was published in July and recommends discussions on reduced risk products be postponed until COP10 in 2023. This is a good thing because it means we have more time to ensure that Parties are being guided by better evidence rather than the wild and damaging recommendations emanating from TobReg and WHO. But this will not happen on its own.
Make your voice heard
As mentioned, the COP Secretariat doesn’t make decisions, the parties do. It only takes one country to demand that this all gets discussed at COP9 and it will be unless another Party objects, which is not a given. The UK delegation should ensure that these discussions do not take place this year, as recommended by the Bureau following consultation with the Parties.
The COP9 agenda also lists items that have so far been raised by Parties for discussion. There was no mention of the idea of forming a THR working group, as the APPG recommended in its COP9 Inquiry. In order to ensure a more sensible debate about safer nicotine products, please write to your MP and urge them to insist the UK delegation proposes the setting up of this group be added to the COP9 agenda for establishment at COP10.
We are not safe in the UK from harmful regulation towards vaping and other reduced risk nicotine products, it can spread across borders very quickly. We must not assume that the current UK political acceptance of vaping is fixed in stone and will never change. Things can move swiftly in the wrong direction in politics, especially if politicians feel they are an outlier to a global consensus.
It is also not just about protecting vapers in the UK. Britain has a moral obligation to stand up for its harm reduction policies that have been so successful at reducing smoking at home. We should be encouraging other nations to follow our lead. Rather than taxing, banning flavours or outright e-cigarette bans, the world should be following the British example, not trying to hinder it, in order to reduce smoking related deaths.
The most important people in this entire process – despite the great efforts to exclude us – are we, the public. We must make our voice heard. Please do write to your MP on the points above, now.
Last week saw the publication of an article at the American Journal of Public Health (AJPH) entitled Balancing Consideration of the Risks and Benefits of E-Cigarettes, written by no fewer than 15 past Presidents of the Society for Research on Nicotine and Tobacco (SRNT). SRNT is a globally respected organisation dedicated to evidence-based research on tobacco and nicotine use.
The lead author is Professor David Balfour from the UK, and Professor Robert West, Emeritus Professor at University College London is also a signatory, but their colleagues are based in the United States where debate over vaping has been fractious at best, and wildly inaccurate at worst.
We expect it is frustration which has prompted such prominent experts to produce a document which criticises the prevailing focus of debate amongst the public health community, and which makes the bold statement that “this article’s authors believe that vaping can benefit public health, given substantial evidence supporting the potential of vaping to reduce smoking’s toll.”.
This should not be controversial, but it speaks to the level of misinformation and ideology that has been at play that it should need to be said at all.
The article explains how the handwringing about youth use of e-cigarettes is harming public health by reducing options for adult smokers who would otherwise choose to quit with safer alternatives.
While accepting that youth vaping is a concern, the authors describe why this aspect has been overblown and how it is damaging to the public’s overall health in the long run. They also, quite rightly, emphasise the opportunities that are being lost while harm reduction deniers are allowed to run riot.
“While evidence suggests that vaping is currently increasing smoking cessation, the impact could be much larger if the public health community paid serious attention to vaping’s potential to help adult smokers, smokers received accurate information about the relative risks of vaping and smoking, and policies were designed with the potential effects on smokers in mind. That is not happening.”
In the UK we are blessed with an establishment understanding of how reduced risk nicotine alternatives can help those who choose to quit smoking. But there is a great deal of hysteria and ideological objection in the rest of the world which is unnecessary and contrary to the evidence which continues to mount up in favour of harm reduction as a successful policy option.
The AJPH article is backed up by an editorial from Martin Dockrell and John Newton of Public Health England which welcomes the report, stating that “These eminent authors conclude that the “singular focus of US policies on decreasing youth vaping” has been a distraction from the larger goal of tobacco control, namely reducing smoking and its harms”.
It is easy to forget that we consumer advocates in the UK are talking a different language to those in other countries who are embattled by an avalanche of misinformation, slurs, and ideological sophistry which seeks to dismiss legitimate advocacy for products that we know will work for many smokers.
Bans on use and supply, restrictions on where people can vape (or use snus or nicotine pouches), and even imprisonment for possession of vaping products are a reality for many consumers of reduced risk products in a lot of countries. The demonisation of people who have quit using safer alternatives is objectionable and wrong, but it happens anyway.
So, we welcome wholeheartedly this intervention by the 15 former Presidents of SRNT. Their credentials are beyond reproach and their message should be listened to.
We hope that this will lead to a greater global understanding of the benefits that e-cigarettes and other safer nicotine products can foster.
The UK has led the way in realising the benefits of allowing tobacco harm reduction to do its work. If the US were to join us in a special relationship agreeing the same principles, it would send a powerful message to the rest of the world to follow suit.
We hope that the AJPH article is well-received and that the ensuing debate can then become one of how we extend the benefits of reduced risk products worldwide, rather than how it is best to ignore and restrict their potential on spurious grounds.
In October 2020, the NNA wrote to the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Prevention, Public Health and Primary Care at the Department of Health and Social Care – Jo Churchill – and the Director of the Number 10 Policy Unit – Munira Mirza – to suggest post-Brexit tobacco and nicotine policy reforms. Following up on that letter, we have now written again to provide a more comprehensive set of policy proposals for maximising the potential of safer nicotine products in order to match the government’s smoke-free 2030 and levelling up agendas.
We emphasise how traditional tobacco control approaches will not be enough to meet government targets and that these goals will only be achieved - both politically and as a public health measure - by embracing consent and consumer choice. Our document covers all aspects of strategy that would be required to maximise consumer switching, involving a fundamental change in approach towards the regulatory, fiscal and communications environment surrounding non-combustible nicotine products of all types.
Yesterday, Public Health England (PHE) released its seventh independent report on vaping in England, carried out by researchers at King’s College London (KCL), and it brings some encouraging news but also scope for improvement.
In an article on the UK government’s website, PHE announced that not only is vaping now the most popular aid used by smokers trying to quit in England, it is also the most effective, with up to 74% quit success rates in 2019 and 2020. The article declares, boldly, that vaping is now “better than nicotine replacement therapy for stopping smoking”.
There is further soothing news on vaping amongst young people, with PHE stating that “around 4.8% of young people (aged 11 to 18 years) reported vaping at least once a month – the same as last year – and most of these were either current or former smokers”. In fact, in a survey by Action on Smoking and Health which was included in the review, it was found that “not a single [11-18 year old] never smoker reported vaping daily, and only 0.5% were previous users of e-cigarettes”.
Considering much of the rhetoric trumpeted by opponents of reduced risk products centres on fears around youth vaping - and while it is certainly right that we continue to remain vigilant in this regard - these data suggest the answer to those pleading that we should ‘think of the children’ should be “what children?”.
The New Nicotine Alliance very much welcomes this latest review, but along with the good news, it also reports on the damage that irresponsible anti-harm reductionists are causing. As Ann McNeil of KCL observes commenting on yesterday’s report, “What is concerning is that smokers, particularly those from disadvantaged groups, incorrectly and increasingly believe that vaping is as harmful as smoking. This is not true and means fewer smokers try vaping.”
This is a direct consequence of shameful scare stories promoted by those opposed to vaping - regardless of evidence – and is having a tangible negative effect on public health. The lack of willingness to debate by those ideologically opposed to vaping is also increasingly proving that they have no arguments left in the face of yet more clear evidence revealed by PHE yesterday. Our view is that they should embrace new innovative options like vaping and abandon their obstructionist stance before they sink further into the realms of conspiracy theorists.
In the UK we are fortunate that PHE and KCL examine the evidence without prejudice or hostility to harm reduction and it is why we are leading the world on enlightened policy in this area, but we can improve on that to further emphasise the benefits of our approach. For example, PHE draw attention to the disappointing fact that only 11% of stop smoking services supply vaping equipment, despite the superior success they can achieve. We sincerely hope that stop smoking services, healthcare professionals, health and wellbeing managers and policymakers read this report and take note.
The NNA also passionately believes that vaping is just a test case for the principle of tobacco harm reduction and that the UK government should seize the opportunity of Brexit to cast off over-precautionary restrictions on other alternative products such as snus, heated tobacco as well as vaping, along with welcoming the promise that modern products like nicotine pouches can offer. In October, we wrote to the Department of Health and Social Care with our post-Brexit recommendations on this subject which you can read here.
Even more importantly, those governments hostile to tobacco harm reduction, and the WHO, should read yesterday’s PHE review and ask themselves how much more quickly they could drive down smoking rates if they adopted the open-minded and evidence-based approach taken in England.
The UK has seen a remarkable shift in forms of nicotine use in the past decade, with consumers themselves choosing safer products over lit tobacco. As a result, smoking prevalence in the UK has declined at an unprecedented rate at little or no cost to the taxpayer. This PHE report suggests that this should not just continue, but that the scope could be expanded.
The government has pledged to “maximise the availability of safer alternatives to smoking” in its ongoing Tobacco Control Plan (to be updated in July). This evidence shows that harm reduction is beneficial to public health – as is accepted in many other areas of policy - and we should not be shy of doing more of it when it comes to reducing the harms from tobacco use too.
Please respond to the UK government’s open consultation for the review of the legislation which applies to vaping products. Brexit gives us an opportunity to diverge from the EU’s Tobacco Products Directive (TPD) and it is crucial that we consumers tell the government what changes we want. We have lived with the consequences of the TPD, no one knows better than us!
This is an easy and quick consultation to do, as there are only 6 questions which relate to safer nicotine products. The consultation ends on 19 March.
LINK TO THE CONSULTATION:
Tobacco and related products legislation introduced between 2015 to 2016: reviewing effectiveness
Here are the questions which relate to safer nicotine products:
Questions 6 to 9 relate to vaping:
Question 10 relates to heated tobacco products:
And, lastly, Question 13 gives an opportunity to raise issues not covered in the other questions (NNA will use this space to say that the sale of snus should be legalised in the UK):
On the consultation page the government says that “there is opportunity to consider, in the future, further regulatory changes that help people quit smoking and address the harms from tobacco.”. In NNA’s submission we will call for future legislation to distinguish between combustible and non combustible products - i.e between products which are very harmful (cigarettes) and those which are significantly less harmful (vaping products, snus, nicotine pouches, heated tobacco products). The experience of snus - a pasteurised oral tobacco product which is far less risky to health than smoking - shows us that the current distinction between tobacco and non tobacco products does not benefit health.
In September we wrote to the government to suggest post-Brexit tobacco and nicotine policy reforms. Our letter might be useful to read when considering points to include in your consultation response:
NNA writes to the UK government suggesting post-Brexit reforms
Please also look at this excellent guide from We Vape on how to respond to the consultation:
UK Government consultation on vaping & related tobacco products
Do take some time out of your day to respond to this - and please let us know how you get on.
On Tuesday 17th November we wrote to Cancer Research UK to express our disappointment that they were “excited” about a Bloomberg-funded report which was designed to paint the consumer voice as somehow part of a mythical tobacco industry plot. We asked for “comments clarifying the position taken by CRUK towards consumer engagement on this matter” but have received no acknowledgement or reply. Sadly, the tweet in question still remains, celebrating consumers being marginalised when - quite rightly - objecting to opaque policymaking.
We have also complained about the original article which prompted the ill-judged reaction from Cancer Research UK, by submitting a response to the publishing journal which you can read here.
Consumers are most affected by decisions made about products which many have found beneficial to their health, so should not be treated in such a casual and dismissive fashion. We hope that these organisations will embrace consumer engagement in the future, instead of attempting to demonise us for simply making our voices heard.
Yesterday, the NNA wrote to the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Prevention, Public Health and Primary Care at the Department of Health and Social Care – Jo Churchill – and the Director of the Number 10 Policy Unit – Munira Mirza – to suggest post-Brexit tobacco and nicotine policy reforms.
On behalf of UK consumers of vaping and other low-risk nicotine products, we proposed steps towards creating a coherent risk-based framework for all safer nicotine products to promote a post-Brexit win for both public health and personal and economic wellbeing.
We emphasised how the proposals would meet government targets and add to the levelling up agenda, involve no additional public spending while also offering an opportunity to 'take back control’ from the mistakes of EU regulation in this policy area.
You can read our ten key proposals and the full submission below & HERE.
Please participate in this exciting new survey on nicotine use in Europe. This is no ordinary questionnaire, it has been designed by nicotine consumers, for nicotine consumers, and consumers have translated it into eleven languages.
We are asking for your help in making this the biggest survey of its kind. These are uncertain times for nicotine consumers in Europe. For EU countries, the TPD is currently being evaluated and the European Commission is looking at the possibility of including safer nicotine products in the tobacco excise directive. Here, in the UK, Brexit is giving us an opportunity to diverge from the TPD restrictions. How do you use nicotine products? How do the current regulations affect you? What changes would you like to see? This survey will be crucial, in the UK and the rest of Europe, for examining how consumers use nicotine products and what regulatory changes would benefit smokers who may wish to quit.
The survey has been organised by European Tobacco Harm Reduction Advocates (ETHRA), a consortium of tobacco harm reduction consumer groups. NNA has been very proud to partner with ETHRA since its inception, to add the UK consumer voice to that of 21 other European consumer groups.
Please take just 5 minutes to do the questionnaire yourself and then help us to get a ton of responses, by sharing it on social media.
Link to the survey:
Do please get in touch if you would like embedded links in order to put the survey on your website.
Back in October, the NNA issued a press release calling on policymakers to lift the counterproductive and unnecessary EU-wide ban on snus. This followed a decision by the FDA in the United States – based on a rigorous assessment of the available science - to categorise snus to be “appropriate for the protection of public health”.
At the time, our snus expert, Mark Oates said:
“It is inexplicable why the EU continues to perpetuate the ban on European smokers choosing to switch to snus, not only is the sale of snus permitted in the USA but they have now allowed one company to make the undisputed claim that “using snus instead of cigarettes puts you at a lower risk of mouth cancer, heart disease, lung cancer, stroke, emphysema, and chronic bronchitis”, the difference in approach could not be more stark, and it is the EU which is being reckless with its public’s health, not America.”
With more and more consumers in the UK, Europe and globally opting for safer forms of nicotine use rather than combustible tobacco, awareness has grown about the existence and properties of snus. In countries where it is legally sold, substitution of smoking in favour of snus has often been remarkable, including Sweden which has an exemption to the EU snus ban and whose smoking rate is subsequently dramatically lower than all other EU member states.
However, the UK government and the EU have stubbornly refused to accept that harms from snus are negligible to non-existent, and that the continued prohibition merely denies smokers a far safer option, should they wish to quit but find it difficult by other means.
However, last week we saw positive signs in the UK with an answer to a parliamentary question on the subject from Jo Churchill, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Department of Health. Asked if the UK government will make an assessment of the effectiveness of the ban on snus products, she responded:
“The Government will consider in due course reviewing the position on snus, and whether the introduction of this product onto the UK market would promote a proportionate approach to managing risks, one which protects the young and non-smokers, whilst giving smokers access to products which may reduce harm.”
This contrasts with previous answers on the subject from the Department of Health - notably during Steve Brine’s tenure – which indicated that no research evidence was even being collated.
Whether it is a consequence of the UK leaving the EU or – hopefully – a realisation that the ban on snus is indefensible both scientifically and morally, this apparent new approach from the government is to be very much welcomed.
The UK has seen a remarkable shift in forms of nicotine use in the past decade, with consumers themselves choosing safer products over lit tobacco. As a result, smoking prevalence in the UK has declined at an unprecedented rate at little or no cost to the taxpayer. With new innovative options joining the market on a regular basis, this should surely continue.
The government has recognised this significant behavioural shift and, indeed, pledged to “maximise the availability of safer alternatives to smoking” in its ongoing Tobacco Control Plan. What better way could there be to honour that pledge than to legalise the sale of snus and finally consign to history a ban which was founded on ignorance and ideology, and is now a reactionary relic that has held back harm reduction progress for far too long.
Today saw the publication of a report by Public Health England entitled Vaping in England: 2020 evidence update summary, which you can read in full here.
It “updates on the prevalence of vaping among young people and adults and reviews literature on vaping among people with mental health conditions and pregnant women” in this country, and – crucially – draws on the latest evidence to deliver its view of how the UK government should proceed in this policy area moving forward.
It concludes that the UK’s current world-leading messaging on e-cigarettes remains valid, but it warns that misinformation is harming uptake of safer products amongst smokers and condemns the spread of doubt from outliers in the UK public health community who should behave better.
As the accompanying press release describes:
False fears preventing smokers from using e-cigarettes to quit
Current vaping use has remained stable in adults and young people since the last report. Of concern is the increasing number of smokers that now believe vaping is more harmful than smoking. This is out of line with expert reviews from the UK and US concluding that using regulated nicotine vaping products is far less harmful than smoking.
It goes on to feature quotes from PHE and others and suggests that some health activists and the media are responsible for deterring smokers from choosing to switch to products hugely safer for their wellbeing than lit tobacco. Deborah Arnott of ASH goes so far as to “urge smokers to have confidence in our regulatory system and not be put off by alarmist headlines about the risk of vaping which are not backed up by the evidence”.
Professor John Britton of UKCTAS is more robust still at the Science Media Centre, identifying “the urgent need for media campaigns to make sure that all smokers understand that switching to e-cigarettes is one of the most effective ways of quitting smoking and protecting their health.”
PHE also admirably represented consumers by pointing out the vital value of flavoured e-liquids. There has been a concerted effort to prohibit flavours worldwide, but PHE has shown it listens to those who use e-cigarettes by saying that "A ban on flavoured liquids could have adverse effects and unintended consequences for smokers using vaping products to quit". This is in stark contrast to organisations such as the WHO and EU which are stubbornly opposed to reduced risk products – and refuse any input from consumers whatsoever - so it is immensely valuable that PHE is setting out the UK’s stall prior to important meetings later in the year.
Consumers and other supporters of NNA will be well aware of the shameful actions of a diminishingly small number of anti-vaping activists in this country who seem hell-bent on wrecking potential for reduced risk products which could have so much positive impact, despite their proving to be the nation’s most popular and successful quit smoking aid. You will also have heard the increasingly desperate science-lite arguments before and read the irresponsible clickbait journalism that often just parrots scaremongery from fatally ideological – and often hopelessly conflicted – merchants of doubt. They are further out in the cold after today, and the widespread take-up of this report in the press should emphasise to them that their outlandish views are miles away from the established consensus.
So we welcome PHE’s report today as a timely reinforcement of the benefits of vaping to public health, plus an encouragement to the UK government to ignore siren voices and continue along the path laid out in the Tobacco Control Plan for England and the recommendations of the Science and Health Committee in August 2018.
A take-home conclusion of today’s publications is that over half of current smokers believe vaping is equally or more harmful than smoking. It is inconceivable that there should be such damaging information being spread when the potential for the world’s public from harm reduction could be revolutionary if only policymakers were exposed to evidence-led advice like PHE has provided, instead of baseless antiscientific heckling from shady vested interests on the sidelines.
If you are a vaper; a relative of a vaper; a smoker worried about making the switch; or a citizen of any country baffled by conflicting media stories, PHE and fellow weighty public health organisations in the UK did you a favour today on the subject of vaping, and did so on the UK government’s website.
Please share the wisdom widely.
For immediate release
LONDON, February 18th, 2020: UK visitors to India who use e-cigarettes to improve their health on the advice of British health organisations are having their devices confiscated at airports.
The New Nicotine Alliance (NNA) has become aware of five travellers who have suffered hard-line and unsanctioned action, but those affected could stretch to tens of thousands more UK citizens who have chosen vaping as a way of stopping smoking.
Regular UK traveller to Goa, Fiona Hodge, reported that UK vapers are having their property confiscated both on the way in and out of India. “I had to leave £60 worth of my property behind despite possession of e-cigarettes not being an offence under the law. UK tourists are being harassed at airports, which will surely be a threat to India’s tourism industry. I certainly won’t be going back if the attitude towards vapers carries the hallmark of being designed specifically to maintain, and even increase, the number of smokers in India.”.
The NNA opposes policies which prohibit the use of safer nicotine products, but if countries pursue such misguided legislation, they should enforce it appropriately and properly inform UK citizens before they travel.
“E-cigarettes are a proven safer alternative to smoking and the UK boasts 1.9 million former smokers who have converted from smoking to exclusively vaping instead. Confiscating products which have a successful track record of diverting smokers away from combustible tobacco is crazy. Their only other option in India is combustible cigarettes, and the Indian Government owns 28% of one of the country’s biggest tobacco companies.”, said NNA Chair Martin Cullip.
“Health groups in the UK, including the NHS, rightly support tobacco harm reduction. Public Heath England also backs vaping and the Royal College of Physicians urges wide promotion of e-cigarettes to reassure and encourage smokers to use them, as does the government’s own Tobacco Control Plan. The Government’s Science and Technology Committee recommended wider acceptance of vaping as an option to switch from smoking in August 2018.
“India welcomes 850,000 visitors from the UK each year and current statistics dictate that around 6 per cent of those will be vapers. That is around 50,000 who could be affected simply for following advice to switch to e-cigarettes on the advice of public health authorities in this country".
“It is not up to the UK to dictate how India chooses to treat e-cigarettes”, said Cullip, “However, it is important that UK travellers are aware of the reception they might receive if they fly to India. We have written to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office saying that it is imperative UK citizens are aware of situations such as this in order that they can make informed decisions about whether to travel to India. Our letter asks the FCO to clarify the law with the Government of India and to update their advice to travellers accordingly.”.
We would suggest that UK citizens affected can give strength to this letter by contacting either the FCO if they are back in the UK, or one of our High Commission offices if in India. https://www.gov.uk/world/organisations/british-high-commission-new-delhi
Issued on behalf of the New Nicotine Alliance
Note to Editors: The NNA is a registered UK charity staffed by consumer volunteers, formed to increase understanding about the benefits of “new” risk-reduced nicotine products and a better recognition of long-term recreational use of nicotine as a powerful incentive for smoking cessation.
Law banning e-cigarettes but excluding personal use
Action on Smoking and Health survey, September 2019
Govt has banned vapes, but owns 28% of ITC – India’s biggest cigarette maker
Public Health England: “E-cigarettes aren’t completely risk free but carry a fraction of the risk of smoking and are helping thousands of smokers to quit and stay smokefree”
Royal College of Physicians: “Promote e-cigarettes widely as substitute for smoking”
UK Tobacco Control Plan: “Backing evidence-based innovations to support quitting” (page 5) https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/630217/Towards_a_Smoke_free_Generation_-_A_Tobacco_Control_Plan_for_England_2017-2022__2_.pdf
UK Government Science and Technology Committee report, August 2018 https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201719/cmselect/cmsctech/505/50502.htm
Foreign and Commonwealth Office most recent British Behaviour report https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/363684/141013_British_Behaviour_Abroad_report_2014.pdf
In our November newsletter, we said that “2020 could present some major challenges for which we will have to be ready so please keep watching our website and social media for news very soon, we will be asking for your help”. This was no idle or generic warning.
Preparations are already underway for a review of the EU’s Tobacco Products Directive (TPD) and, this week, an upcoming meeting between the Commission and ENVI – the EU’s health department -– was announced for the 20th and 21st of January. Rumours abound that this committee will wish to talk about the vaping scare in the US and try to employ it to force a harsher regulatory landscape in Europe.
We believe there is a prevailing sentiment amongst the EU Commission that they were beaten by consumers during the debates on the last TPD between 2012 and 2014 and have not forgiven us for it. No matter that the TPD is currently delivering effective outcomes by regulating e-cigarettes relatively wisely, the EU has a collective ambition to roll the clock back to 2011 and run all the same arguments again. Consider comments from former EU Commissioner for Health and Food Safety Vytenis Andriukaitis who said in March 2019:
“If one uses electronic cigarettes as a method to stop smoking, it has to be managed by medical doctors and specialists, to be sold in pharmacies and not in supermarkets.”
This was the starting point for those trying to extinguish the potential of vaping 8 years ago, and it doesn’t seem that they are happy that medical regulations were not placed on e-cigarettes back then. He also dismissed the concept of harm reduction entirely:
“Harm is harm. No matter if it’s less or more.”
His second in command, Arūnas Vinčiūnas, went further, saying:
“E-cigarettes may be less harmful, according to some reports, but they’re still “poison,”
Andriukaitis and his cabinet only stepped down last month, but don’t expect anything to change. Finland is currently occupying the Presidency of the EU Council, and are being lobbied hard to fundamentally change the EU’s approach to e-cigarettes:
“Mounting evidence suggests that regulating flavours in e-cigarettes to protect youth is wise although not easy. Many countries are currently considering further regulations on e-cigarettes and so should the EU.”
Much like the CDC in the US, the EU will be keen to keep the ambiguity between e-liquid regulated under the TPD and illegal liquids causing all the harms seen in the US going for as long as possible. They are smarting that they were overrun by consumers last time around and see e-cigarettes as an itch they need to scratch into oblivion this time. The US vaping scare is exactly the tool they have been dreaming of to try to get their revenge over vapers for our impudence in resisting them when they previously tried to crush vaping.
The war on harm reduction in the EU is starting again. Much sooner than you realise, minds will be closed and positions taken. By the time any of us are asked for comment on this, policy proposals will already have been made. We are expecting the first significant discussions to start in the European Parliament as soon as the end of January 2020.
Don’t think, either, that the UK leaving the EU will mean we are excluded from anything that arises out of the TPD. We don’t yet know what the trade agreement with the EU will look like, but it is quite possible that many directives will be part of “level playing field” arrangements in which the UK stays aligned with the EU, and it is highly likely that the TPD will be one of them. Politicians do not see smokers and vapers as a hill to die on, so TPD is probably not an area where divergence from the EU should be expected.
In the new year, we will be urging all UK and European consumers to be as active as possible and to replicate the intense efforts of past years and fight the same battles as before, but more intensely.
This is no time for complacency, there are real threats coming and we are going to need you to put yourselves out to protect your right to choose safer nicotine products. So, please enjoy your Christmas and New Year celebrations, but return refreshed and ready for a mighty battle in 2020 and beyond. This is, we assure you, not a drill.
ALSO SEE: BREXIT AND VAPING ,THE COUNTERFACTUAL, CLIVE BATES,
Dear Mayor Khan,
We note in your response to a London Mayoral question from Assembly Member Onkar Sahota on 22nd October that vaping adverts are currently not permitted on the London Underground, and that Transport for London “is currently reviewing its overall approach to Vaping advertising”.
While it is disappointing that a ban on advertising vaping products is in place on the tube, we are encouraged that the policy is wisely being reviewed.
In a comprehensive report, the highly respected Royal College of Physicians advised that organisations should “promote e-cigarettes widely as substitute for smoking” and that “smokers should be reassured that these products can help them quit”.
Prohibition of advertising has the opposite, damaging, effect to the RCP’s advice, so we hope you can fast-track the review to allow positive messages on the London Underground as to the benefits that vaping products could deliver to your smoking passengers.
E-cigarettes have been included as an option in the Stoptober campaign for three years now and the Advertising Standards Authority has been considering whether to amend its advice to allow health claims to be made for vaping products, as highlighted by Public Health England which has concluded they are at least 95% less harmful than smoking.
Public perception on the safer nature of reduced risk products like e-cigarettes has been on the wane recently due to alarmist tabloid media, so an intervention from TfL to permit vaping adverts across the entire London transport network would not only fit with current government health advice but could also make a significant positive contribution to the health of Londoners.
Vaping advertising is already prevalent on London buses, so it would seem consistent to also allow the same messages to be presented to travellers on tube trains too. The government’s Tobacco Control Plan aspires to “maximise the availability of safer alternatives to smoking” and recognises the potential of products which reduce harm to smokers who choose to quit. This can only be achieved by promoting the existence of those products, and you have it in your power to enable publicity of them to the millions of daily travellers on the Underground, many of whom will be smokers.
As a consumer-led charity which advocates for a wider recognition of tobacco harm reduction products and has engaged with government and public health NGOs for many years, we would welcome meeting you or your delegated colleagues to discuss the policy area in more detail. We would also ask that you add us as a stakeholder so that we may be updated on plans for vaping advertising on London Transport in the future.
For immediate release
LONDON 23 October: The Federal Drug Administration in the US has this week issued a judgement that eight snus smokeless tobacco products can be marketed with claims that they are less harmful than smoking. The New Nicotine Alliance (NNA) welcomes this development and urges the European Union to abandon its archaic and indefensible ban on the products for European smokers.
Snus is a pasteurised tobacco product with decades of epidemiological evidence proving that it presents negligible risk compared to smoking. Owing to unjustified panic in the 1980s, it is currently banned in the EU despite overwhelming evidence that it is up to 99% less harmful than smoking. Sweden – which has an exemption to the ban – enjoys by far the lowest smoking rates and tobacco-related harm in the EU.
“It is inexplicable why the EU continues to perpetuate the ban on European smokers choosing to switch to snus,” says Mark Oates of the NNA, “not only is the sale of snus permitted in the USA but they have now allowed one company to make the undisputed claim that “using snus instead of cigarettes puts you at a lower risk of mouth cancer, heart disease, lung cancer, stroke, emphysema, and chronic bronchitis”, the difference in approach could not be more stark, and it is the EU which is being reckless with its public’s health, not America.”
“The FDA has recognised that there is a continuum of risk surrounding nicotine use and that snus is at the very low end of that,” Oates continued, “this decision is a welcome game-changer as it acknowledges, quite rightly, that safer nicotine products can offer great potential for smokers who wish to switch from smoking to a safer alternative. Public perception is key, and the US has decided that messaging conveying the relative risk of nicotine products is vital information that can offer great benefits to advancement of public health. By contrast, the EU is wedded to an out-of-date, unscientific and therefore indefensible ban on products which are 99% safer than smoking, while allowing cigarettes to be sold everywhere.”
“It is well past time that the EU stepped out of the 80s and followed the lead of the FDA,” Oates concluded, “there is simply no valid reason for snus to be prohibited in the EU, it is a shameful dereliction of duty which should be overturned at the first opportunity.”
Issued on behalf of the New Nicotine Alliance
Note to Editors: The NNA is a registered UK charity staffed by consumer volunteers, formed to increase understanding about the benefits of risk-reduced nicotine products and a better recognition of long-term recreational use of nicotine as a powerful incentive for smoking cessation. We wish to see a mature public and organisational understanding of the potential of safer nicotine products for reducing cigarette smoking, including their safety and efficacy, and hence contribute to the reduction in cigarette smoking. This requires engaging with and informing a wide range of individuals and audiences – from health through to regulatory bodies.
Phone: 0300 30 20029
FDA grants first-ever modified risk orders to eight smokeless tobacco products
Reuters: EU court stands by ban on Swedish tobacco product 'snus'
This week saw the publication of the latest survey by Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) into e-cigarette use in the UK which reveals that the number of people using e-cigarettes has swelled once more, despite the best efforts of massed ranks of anti-vaping doomsayers and irresponsible media worldwide.
ASH’s report – the latest annual survey since its inception in 2012 – assesses there to be 3.6 million vapers in the UK now, up from 3.2 million last year. It also reveals that of those there are 1.9 million who have successfully switched from smoking to exclusive e-cigarette use, once again eclipsing the number of people using vaping devices alongside lit tobacco. It is a stunning figure for the fact that there are now over half as many vapers in the country as there are smokers.
Those ideologically opposed to tobacco harm reduction have been throwing the proverbial kitchen sink at vaping in the past year, but fortunately this report shows that it isn’t deterring uptake for many people.
The main points in the new survey make interesting reading:
We are encouraged by these statistics as they illustrate that the UK’s approach to regulation of e-cigarettes is proving to be the right one; once again it demonstrates that a regulatory environment which allows safer alternatives to flourish – along with a government signed up to embracing innovation and new technological solutions – can deliver results.
But, sadly, there are also signs that opposition to harm reduction is having a negative effect. Once again, perception of the harmful nature of e-cigarettes is getting in the way. The ASH report states that “In 2018, for the first time since 2015 at least half the population agreed that e-cigarettes were less or a lot less harmful than smoking (50% in 2018 compared to 43% in 2017). However, this improvement has not been sustained, and in 2019 only 45% agreed this was the case.”. This is regrettable and those who are responsible for the fake concern and many column inches of negative coverage should be ashamed of themselves.
However, there is much positive to take from ASH’s data.
The NNA is not a prohibitionist organisation, we advocate for free choice of smokers to choose safer products – or not - on their own terms, and for availability of reduced risk products to be protected, but all smokers and vapers must be properly informed. The plethora of garish scare stories in the media have obstructed that but it is heartening to see that there is still a significant rise in consumers seeing through the noise and choosing to vape instead. It suggests that there is a culture in the UK of smokers and vapers engaging with each other to share experiences and information independent of the campaign against safer nicotine consumption.
The report also contains a salient lesson to policymakers of what could encourage more to make the switch to vaping if they are serious about reducing smoking rates. Over 50% of vapers now cite “I get a great deal of pleasure from vaping” and “E-cigarettes have improved my quality of life” as their reason for sticking to it rather than relapsing. Only 12% stated the opposite for both questions.
While health organisations frame the choice to use e-cigarettes instead of lit tobacco solely in terms of health, we have consistently advocated that enjoyment of the products is the biggest driver towards permanent use and avoidance of relapse to smoking. Recognising that recreational use of e-cigarettes is a good thing would open the door for far better uptake of reduced risk products and we hope that one day the UK government will concede that this is the case.
It is also a compelling reason why the ill-conceived recent focus on restricting flavours in e-cigarettes should be resisted at all costs in the UK. Governments worldwide should be asking vapers why – as this report shows – a majority of fully-switched e-cigarette users favour vaping over their previous smoking habit, because the answer will resoundingly revolve around the choice afforded by flavours.
If you are one of the estimated 400,000 new dedicated vapers since 2018 detailed in these latest statistics, we are very pleased that you have swelled our ranks in the UK. We have many battles left to fight but the more of us there are, the better. Welcome to all of you.
ASH Factsheet: Use of e-cigarettes (vaporisers) among adults in Great Britain
NNA is delighted to announce that we have joined with other European tobacco harm reduction groups to partner with European Tobacco Harm Reduction Advocates (ETHRA).
The challenges faced by tobacco harm reduction are not confined to individual countries but are regional and global and ETHRA meets the long standing need for a regional network in Europe.
ETHRA will give European advocates a platform for sharing information and experiences, will enable us to co-ordinate actions and will amplify the message that tobacco harm reduction is a vital strategy for many smokers.
Martin Cullip, NNA’s chair, said:
“We are pleased to be part of this new European initiative to advocate for tobacco harm reduction on behalf of nicotine consumers. We look forward to engaging with policy makers to promote the benefits of sensible regulation in delivering better outcomes for smokers and users of reduced risk products in the future.”
Read more about ETHRA here:
You may have read some pretty scary articles in recent weeks about how ‘vaping’ is causing health problems – including deaths – in the USA. We use inverted commas around the word vaping because it is by far the real story.
We have received concerned messages from supporters about this and have had reports of vapers being contacted by friends and family members saying they should immediately quit using e-cigarettes. Many of you reading this will have experienced the same first-hand or on social media.
We will not be going into detail about why these articles are irresponsible, ill-informed and wrong because others have already done so. We provide links to numerous comprehensive rebuttals below for you to send to those who have been sucked in by the negative coverage recently.
Suffice to say that vaping nicotine is not to blame for any of these episodes, but instead illegal oil-based THC liquids bought from unregulated vendors in America, not the UK. In short, drug dealers.
The advice from Public Health England – and from the NNA – remains the same.
We do however condemn the many bad actors who are fanning the flames of this false panic. Whether it is journalists chasing click-bait or ideologically driven harm reduction sceptics in the UK health community, they are actively deterring many thousands of smokers from either opting to switch to a far safer form of nicotine consumption or guiding those who may be using e-cigarettes to move back to smoking, based on no proper evidence whatsoever.
This is not a game. Their crass conflation of vaping with illicit, unregulated and deadly illegal drug-containing liquids will cost lives and they should be thoroughly ashamed of themselves.
The e-cigarette market in the UK is tightly regulated under the Tobacco and Related Products Regulations Act 2016 so you, your friends and family should have nothing to worry about. Keep calm, educate them, and carry on vaping.
To stay safe, the simple approach is to only buy from reputable vendors who sell products regulated by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency in the UK. Don’t buy from boot sales, men in vans or people in the pub.
It is regrettable that there is so much unjustified negativity being promoted about devices which have driven down smoking rates considerably since 2012 and are making dramatic improvements to the lives of millions. Sadly, it seems that malign influences are at work.
The bottom line, though – and a line endorsed by government institutions - is that there is nothing to see here if you buy from legitimate sources. Ignore the panic-mongers and spread the word.
Science Media Centre, expert reaction to Trump’s decision to ban flavourings in e-cigarettes
Dispersing the clouds of the vape panic myth
Is Vaping Really Killing People? Here are the Facts, Lee Johnson
The world responds
British vapers are safe, claim health experts after deaths in US