And in one fell swoop nearly 3 billion people were banned from access to e-cigarettes… is the UK vape ban next?
GLOBAL VAPING BANS COME INTO FORCE
Today, November 1st 2019 the world’s most populous country, China, has officially banned the sale of all e-cigarette and vaping products. The world’s second most populous country India has also within the past 6 weeks banned the sale of vaping products. The United States, the world’s third most populous country, has in recent weeks, put e-cigarette and vaping companies on red alert, with some states completely banning flavoured products with one state putting a temporary ban ALL products.
Why? The true motivations for these bans is up for debate but have been sizzling away for some time in the minds of policy makers and tobacco industry stakeholders. All that was needed was one tinderbox situation to kick them over the line. The most recent ‘US vaping deaths crisis’ and ‘youth vaping epidemics’ proved the perfect spark for the inferno of bans that followed.
THE UK VAPE BAN?
What interests us the most is the disparity in approach from the UK versus these other larger countries. Why is the UK seemingly holding the torch for Vaping policy in the public health battle against tobacco? Have we gone absolutely mad? Has Brexit finally sent us over the edge?
In reaction to the recent onset of these crises in the US, Public Health England’s stance was a resolute doubling down in its previously stated advice that:
“Vaping isn’t completely risk free, but is far less harmful than smoking tobacco. There is no situation where it would be better for your health to continue smoking rather than switching completely to vaping.” The UK government has reported “Fastest drop in smoking rates in over a decade… The latest data from a national smoking study indicates adult smoking rates fell 2.2% from January to July 2019 – equivalent to 200 fewer smokers every hour.”
Based on this evidence it becomes extremely clear why UK institutions have not even mentioned the words UK vape ban.
THE FLAVOUR OF THE YOUTH DEBATE
But think of the children! The US is saying that teen vaping is an epidemic and is scrambling to piece together a narrative that supports this to enforce these bans. Even institutional healthcare professionals in some corners of the EU have jumped on the bandwagon.
Prof Charlotta Pisinger, the chair of the European Respiratory Society Tobacco Control Committee said:
“Cigarettes should taste like cigarettes not like candy. Of course it attracts children.” she is in “no doubt” that flavours should be banned. “I know opponents will say flavours are essential because there will be heavy smokers who want to quit with e-cigarettes and they will not find it as attractive, but we have to think about the new generation of young people so that they don’t get addicted to these products. It is much more important that we don’t experience a new epidemic of e-cigarettes.”
– Just a recap on medical terminology if your still with us. Here is the OED’s definition of the word epidemic:
“a large number of cases of a particular disease happening at the same time in a particular community”.
Right so the use of an e-cigarette before any known long-term negative health affects have been proved is already being referred to as an epidemic, by a medical professor? Okay… I thought she might know the definition but clearly that’s not important if your advocating for some kind of UK vape ban.
So do these claims in China, India, the US and the EU hold water with us here in the UK? Well according to ASH report in June of this year, NO:
- More than three quarters of 11-18 year olds have never tried (76.9%) or are unaware of e-cigarettes (6.6%).
- Young people vape mainly just to give it a try (52.4%) not because they think it looks cool (1.0%).
- In 2019 15.4% of 11-18 year olds had tried vaping, compared to 16.0% in 2018. This is an increase from 2015 when 12.7% of 11-18 year olds had tried e-cigarettes.
- There has also been an increase in current use since 2015 from 2.4% to 4.9%, with 1.6% of 11-18 year olds using e-cigarettes more than once a week in 2019.
- Vaping is much less common among young people who have never smoked. A large majority of never smokers aged 11-18, 93.8% in total, have either never used an e-cigarette (87.8%) or are not aware of them (6.0%). Of young people aged 11-18 years old who have never smoked, 5.5% have ever tried e-cigarettes, 0.8% are current vapers, only 0.1% vape more than once a week, and not a single never smoker reported vaping daily.
- Children under 16 are less likely to try e-cigarettes than 16-18 year olds. 8.5% of 11-15 year olds have tried vaping, compared to 26.7% of 16-18 year olds.
In short, the majority of users of e-cigarettes and vaping products are adults who are ex-smokers or those actively trying to quite. This is exactly who the product is intended for and on the evidence this is who is using the product. Public health matters states:
“The peak age for vaping is now 35-44 (8.1%) and around 1 in 8 ex-smokers vape, compared with less than one percent (0.9%) of those who have never smoked.”
SO WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?
So what does this mean for the future of e-cigarettes and vaping across the world and in the UK? It looks as though the rest of the world is on a collision course with an outright ban on many e-cigarette products. As with many cultural norms, what happens in the US is usually held up as an example followed by the rest of the world, Vaping is no different it seems. Michael R. Bloomberg, the founder and majority owner of Bloomberg News and ex NYC mayor has recently pledged $160 million dollars to ban flavoured e-cigarettes. 2019 has most certainly been one of the darkest years for Vaping globally and if the momentum continues to coalesce then it could spell a permanent step change and a complete removal of e-cigarettes.
THE UK, GLOBAL VAPING CAPITAL?
The light at the end of the tunnel, gold at the end of the rainbow, could be what we do here on our small island. The UK looks to be positioning itself to be the world leader in tobacco control policy and the pioneer in vapor based cessation methods. What gives this trajectory a credible backing is that we have done it before, we have history on this subject, we have skin in the game. The Royal College of Physicians were the first to draw conclusive causal link between smoking and lung cancer and other associated illness. With Brexit on the horizon, regardless if you agree or disagree, the UK will be in a position to dictate its own regulatory body and position on e-cigarettes and vaping outside of Europe. There have been hugely positive strides this year from PHE building on the back of the EU’s Tobacco Products Directive. This came to a head in a mammoth 111 page document entitled ‘Vaping in England: an evidence update February 2019’. The key takeaways that shine through are the following recommendations to be adopted:
The Committee found that some aspects of the vaping related regulatory system appear to be holding back their use as a stop smoking tool and as such, recommended that the Government should:
- Review vaping related regulations (eg. limits on nicotine strength, tank size, advertising ban on health claims), together with the ASA and the MHRA, and publish a plan for addressing ‘anomalies’ in the next annual Tobacco Control Plan
- Review the level of taxation on nicotine-related products which should directly correspond to the health risks that products present, to encourage less harmful consumption. Applying that logic, EC should remain the least-taxed and cigarettes the most, with heat-not-burn products falling between the two
In short if things continue as they are then things look pretty bleak for the rest of the world but pretty bloody brilliant for the UK! Let us know what you think in the comments below!