UK Lawmakers Push Government To Endorse Vaping To Slash The Smoking Rate

Steve Birr | Vice Reporter

Lawmakers in the United Kingdom say the government must “fully exploit the public health potential of vaping” and reject local attempts to curtail where electronic cigarettes can be used.

Members of parliament are urging the government to clear up misconceptions that are leaving smokers confused about their options and threaten to impede the country’s progress reducing the smoking rate. The All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) in the U.K., which is pushing for greater access to vaping, fear that media reports denouncing the practice, coupled with restrictive local laws, are undermining public health gains in the country, reports Augusta Free Press.

The group notes the rate of smokers in the country transitioning to e-cigarettes has dropped significantly, showing the fear-based campaigns of tobacco control groups against vaping are gaining ground. The vaping population in the U.K. rose by only 4 percent in 2016, after expanding by 62 percent in 2014 and 24 percent in 2015.

MP Mark Pawsey, chairman of the APPG, commended Public Health England, an arm of the U.K.’s Department of Health, for offering e-cigarettes as smoking cessation tools to participants in the annual Stoptober quitting campaign in October, and says it should serve as a model for broader government action on the issue.

“It’s up to the government to ensure such campaigns (as PHE’s) become the norm, not an exception, so that the U.K. can fully exploit the public health potential of vaping,” Pawsey said Nov. 20 in the House of Parliament, according to Augusta Free Press.

Research from Public Health England, Cancer Research UK, and the Royal College of Physicians showing vaping eliminates the majority of harms from combustible cigarettes and are effective tools for quitting. Despite the positive research, local governments continue to enact strict rules that largely relegate the products to the status of cigarettes.

“Smokers who want to switch to vaping should not be faced with unnecessary hurdles that may hinder their transition,” John Dunne, a member of U.K. Vaping Industry Association (UKVIA), told Augusta Free Press. “For example, arbitrary restrictions on liquid strengths and e-liquid bottle sizes, and advertising bans akin to those for tobacco products make little or no sense from a public health perspective.”

The public is also becoming less educated on the health profile of vapor products. The latest polling by Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) shows only 20 percent of adults in the U.K. understand that e-cigarettes are safer than smoking, a drop from 31 percent in 2015.

The U.K. currently has the second lowest smoking rate in all of Europe, and officials say vaping is a big part of the reason. The APPG wants to ensure this trend away from smoking can continue unimpeded by false information.

Vaping eliminates up to 95 percent of the risk associated with cigarettes because the majority of cancer-causing chemicals are released through combustion.

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Steve Birr

Vice Reporter

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