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Use Brexit to save smokers' lives and plug vaping, say peers

Promote e-cigs and bin the regulations

By Andrew Orlowski, 11 Jul 2016

The government should take advantage of Brexit to save lives, the House of Lords heard last week.

Conservative peer Baron (Martin) Callanan, who tabled the motion being debated to withdraw the EU’s latest vaping regulations, said smoking policy should no longer be driven by the interests of Big Pharma, and called on the government to actively promote safer e‑cigarettes instead.

Callanan was an MEP from 1999 to 2014, and as leader of a parliamentary group attempted the controversial inclusion of e-cigarettes into the revised EU Tobacco Products Directive, aka “TPD2”.

Speaking on Monday, Callanan deplored misleading reports from tabloids and “public health professionals”, which have led to some smokers thinking vaping is just as harmful as smoking.

He called for the Department of Health to proactively promote e‑cigarettes as a safer alternative. He also wants the TPD2’s ban on stronger nicotine liquids lifted. The EU’s 18mg/ml maximum is below the 24g/ml strength smokers needing to quit typically start with.

“How have we ended up with this crazy state of affairs? The Department of Health prides itself on being a 'global thought leader' on tobacco, to use its words, and while the department has played a strong game on pure control measures, by which I mean the ban on public place smoking and the taxation of smoking, it has been little short of appalling on its approach to tobacco harm reduction, by which I refer to the development of much less harmful substitutes to smoking,” he said.

Britain’s Chief Medical Officer had in 2013 singled out vaping as one of the three single “biggest health threats to the UK, along with obesity and binge drinking. It would be funny if the issue were not so serious.”

Callanan also singled out former Health Minister Anna Soubry MP (Con) and wondered if she was “a sleeper agent for Vote Leave”.

Ouch.

For Labour, shadow health spokesperson Lord Hunt of Kings Heath, a veteran of health quangos, sounded better informed – and more sympathetic than the CMO or Soubry.

“E‑cigarettes can actually be an incredibly useful tool in encouraging smokers to give up smoking. The core of people who have already taken advantage of e‑cigarettes are often those whom traditional public health measures have not touched.”

Lord Campbell-Savours (Lab) agreed that “the 24 milligram strength which is essential to lots of new switchers” and deplored the regulation limiting bottle and tank sizes. He pointed out the high cost of compliance to manufacturers of liquids.

One manufacturer had told him:

“This is estimated at £5,000 each per flavour, of which we have 20, plus Notification & data submissions for any variables of strength would also be required. Our business model could be changed from a manufacturer to a retailer with loss of jobs & future investment stifled if we are unable to bear the cost of this directive’s implementation. We can already see a burgeoning black market which the TPD ( Article 20) will encourage. Individuals are now making e-liquid at home & selling to whoever they please, with no testing done or age restrictions adhered to or tax paid”.

Viscount Ridley pointed out that vaping was banned altogether in South America “Why? Because the tobacco industry is big and powerful in that part of the world.” Ridley said the TPD2 were ran against the successful harm reduction strategy of providing needle exchanges for HIV drug addicts:

“We did not go round saying, ‘That’s a bad policy because needles are dangerous things’. We said, ‘Let’s look at the relative risks.”

Lord Prior of Brampton, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at Department of Health, supported the regulations. Most people had heard of e-cigarettes already, said Prior, and only nine per cent of vapers used liquids stronger than 18mg/ml.

“I feel that these regulations are proportionate. They do not go over the top, are entirely sensible and are backed by the RCP and all the major charities in this area”.

The EU's new regulations are so strict, YouTube vloggers have been advised not to say they recommend a new vaping device. That's promotion. ®

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Read the debate here.

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