Vaping is the key to unlocking the government’s target for England to become smoke-free by 2030 – achieved when less than 5 per cent of adults smoke. But without regulatory change, the benefits that come with vaping could be at risk.
The Chartered Trading Standards Institute this month published a report stating that one in three vape products in the UK may be non-compliant, and that a third of shops knowingly sell vapes to those aged under 18. This should alarm all those who recognise the role that vapes can play in bringing down smoking rates.
Vaping misinformation is a pernicious problem which the NHS has identified as a serious barrier to helping smokers switch to a less harmful alternative. As an expert independent evidence review by Public Health England found, the current best estimate is that e-cigarettes are around 95 per cent less harmful than smoking. Despite this finding, 32 per cent of smokers wrongly believe that vaping carries the same risks as – or is more harmful than – smoking.
If non-compliant vapes continue to dominate the news, this will diminish trust in all vapes – even those that are fully compliant with the safety measures that rightly exist to protect consumers. British American Tobacco UK believes that one of the most effective means to give smokers the confidence they need to switch to vaping is to tackle under-age access and non-compliance head on.
With the government’s response to Dr Javed Khan’s Independent Review on Tobacco Control due in the coming weeks, it is vital that the government presents solutions to tackle under-age sales and non-compliant vapes.
Here’s our plan to ensure vaping remains a safe and trusted tool to achieve the smokefree 2030 goal:
Strengthen vaping regulations to protect young people
Following Brexit and the review of the UK’s tobacco and vaping product regulations, we have a unique opportunity to strengthen vaping regulation. Marketing and flavours are vital for helping adult smokers to switch, yet both are being abused by unscrupulous operators to target children and young people. This must stop.
While vape flavours play a critical role in encouraging adults to switch from smoking, flavour descriptors and packaging that resemble confectionary and are clearly targeted at younger consumers must be prohibited. Images and advertisements designed specifically to appeal to children must also be banned.
Increase enforcement of existing laws
Tightening regulations will not solve the problem if it is not matched by enforcement efforts. The number of illegal supersized or super-strength vaping products seized in raids by Trading Standards has soared in the past year, with the authority itself estimating that a third of all products on the market are not compliant with the regulations.
BAT UK supports measures to increase the powers and resources of Border Force and Trading Standards so that non-compliant products can be removed before they enter the UK market. The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency also has a clear role to play and must step up its efforts to ensure that non-compliant vapes are removed from sale.
Vaping is the key to delivering on England’s smokefree 2030 target and combatting the health inequalities that divide the country. But if the government does not tighten vaping regulations and adequately resource authorities to enforce the law, trust in vaping will diminish and the incredible progress made in helping smokers switch could be at risk. The time to build A Better Tomorrow™ is now.
BAT UK is a UK subsidiary of BAT. BAT is building A Better Tomorrow™ by reducing the health impact of our business. From launching our first vaping device in the UK in 2013, non-combustible alternative nicotine products accounted for almost half of the revenue of BAT’s UK business in 2021.