Tuesday 11 December 2018

Science and Technology Committee on e-cigs - the government responds

The government has responded to the Science and Technology committee's report on e-cigarettes and there are some encouraging signs. In particular (emphasis is mine)...

Recommendation 5 The Government, together with the ASA and the MHRA, should review all these regulatory anomalies and, to the extent that EU directives do not present barriers, publish a plan for addressing these in the next annual Tobacco Control Plan.

The Government broadly accepts this recommendation and is committed to reviewing tobacco legislation as and when appropriate. While the UK Government is a member of the EU it will continue to comply with the requirements of the EU’s Tobacco Products Directive 2014/40/EU (TPD), transposed into UK legislation through the Tobacco and Related Products Regulation 2016 (TRPR). The Government has made a commitment to review the TRPR by May 2021 to consider its regulatory impact. In addition, as announced in the Tobacco Control Plan the Government will review where the UK’s exit from the EU offers us opportunities to re‐appraise current regulation to ensure this continues to protect the nation’s health. The Government will explore those areas identified by the Committee, such as the 20mg/ml maximum nicotine refill limit, a size restriction of 2ml on the tank, a block on advertising e-cigarettes’ relative harm-reduction potential and the notification scheme for e-cigarette ingredients.

Although there are advertising restrictions on vaping, they are less stringent than those which apply to tobacco products. The Government will of course consider when it reviews the legislation whether these restrictions fully reflect the differing risks of harm arising from tobacco products and e-cigarettes. We would note to the Committee that the Government has issued a direction to Ofcom clarifying that under the current code on television and radio advertising it is permissible for public health campaigns to promote the generic use of e-cigarettes for quitting smoking. This direction will support campaigns such as Stoptober which have promoted the use of e-cigarettes for quitting.


Recommendation 7

The Government should conduct a review of regulations on e-cigarettes and novel tobacco products which are currently applied under EU legislation, to identify scope for change post-Brexit, including an evidence-based review of the case for discontinuing the ban on ‘snus’ oral tobacco. This should be part of a wider shift to a more risk-proportionate regulatory environment; where regulations, advertising rules and tax/duties reflect the evidence on the relative harms of the various e-cigarette and tobacco products available. While an evidence-based approach is important, it also may help bring forward the behaviours that we want as a society—less smoking, and greater use and acceptance of e-cigarettes and novel tobacco products if that serves to reduce smoking rates.

The Government accepts this recommendation. We have committed in the Tobacco Control Plan to review where the UK’s exit from the European Union offers us opportunities to re-appraise current regulation to ensure this continues to protect the nation’s health. We will look to identify where we can sensibly deregulate without harming public health or where current EU regulations limit our ability to deal with tobacco. The Government’s goal will remain to achieve a proportionate approach to managing risk, one which protects the young and non-smokers, whilst giving smokers access to products which will reduce harm. As part of this the Government will consider reviewing the position on snus and whether the introduction of this product onto the UK market would promote that kind of proportionate harm reduction approach.

The report also recommends that heated tobacco products should be taxed at a lower rate than cigarettes (a much lower rate is implied). You can read the response here.

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