Tuesday 30 January 2024

Tobacco and Vapes Bill moves forward

Yesterday saw the publication of the government's response to the smoking/vaping consultation and an announcement from Rishi Sunak that disposable vapes will be banned. Although it received less media attention, there are also plans for some form of plain (or plainer) packaging, some sort of display ban and restrictions on flavours. It has been reported that flavours will be limited to four, although the government hasn't officially said that. 

Support for anti-vaping measures was not overwhelming in the consultation. A slight majority were opposed to any further regulation of flavours and it is far from clear that there was majority support for the other measures either. As I said on Substack, the consultation was full of leading questions and the response is written in such a slippery way that it is impossible to get to the bottom of some of the numbers.

Even the generational smoking ban, which Downing Street thinks is hugely popular, was only supported by 63% of respondents. Since only 28,000 people responded, a concerted campaign to rally opponents to respond to the consultation could have swung it the other way and given the government more of a headache. When people think through what the policy means, most oppose it.

69% supported banning disposable vapes. This seems to roughly reflect public opinion but, as I say in The Spectator, when only 24% of the public understand that vaping is much safer than smoking, a wiser government would not pander to the majority. 

For the minority of Britons who understand that vaping is much less hazardous than smoking and that e-cigarettes are proven to be the most effective way to get people off cigarettes, banning a whole category of vapes is a risky move. A study funded by Cancer Research UK concluded that banning disposables ‘has the potential to slow progress in driving down smoking prevalence and reducing smoking-related harm’. The pressure group Action on Smoking (ASH), which usually shares the public’s love for banning things, says that ‘the risk of unintended consequences is too great for us to support a ban’. ASH’s former director, Clive Bates, says the proposed ban ‘sinks further into empty gesture politics, goes against evidence, does more harm than good, and makes everything worse’. He has called on the Chief Medical Officer, Chris Whitty, to resign for publicly supporting it.

Having always opposed a ban on disposables, I note that ASH are now cautiously welcoming it. Perhaps they don't want to bite the hand that feeds it (the Department of Health) or maybe prohibitionists are just inherently untrustworthy. They used to explicitly state that there were 'not trying to get tobacco banned', but that soon changed when the winning line was in sight.

I predict that this will be a nightmare to enforce and will not give the Tories any bump in the polls, although James O'Brien likes the policy so that's something for Sunak to cling to. 

If you want to understand why the public are so ignorant about vaping and you have a high pain threshold, try reading this garbage in the Mirror. 'Fleet Street Fox' (Susie Boniface) thinks that nicotine must be dangerous because it's a pesticide. Nicotine is a natural pesticide, which is why it is in the tobacco plant in the first place, but Boniface struggles with the idea that a substance can serve more than one purpose (caffeine is also a pesticide, for example). She then goes on a weird rant about neo-nicotinoids and calls for all nicotine to be banned.

Limit patches and vapes with nicotine to be prescription-only and medically supervised to wean addicts off the stuff, like we do with methadone, and give the nation its health and sanity back.

But he won't do that, because for every single year since Brexit the UK government has allowed the "emergency use" of neonicitinoid pesticides on British farmland despite the fact expert committees, the COP summits and everyone with a brain has yelled at them to stop doing so. Perhaps it's related to the fact these pesticides are commonly used by sugar beet farmers in East Anglia, home to the bluest of safe seats, and as Brexity as Boris Johnson's underpants. If Rishi banned nicotine being ingested by people, those same people might wonder why he's still spraying it on Norfolk.

Slightly less insane, but equally ignorant is this nonsense in the Telegraph in which Celia Walden confidently predicts, based on nothing whatsoever and contrary to 15 years of research, that vaping will one day be revealed to be "far more dangerous than smoking". 

While doing the media rounds in the last couple of days, I encountered some misinformation face to face when a GP asserted that smoking and vaping were equally dangerous, although he backed down somewhat when challenged.

This is what we're up against: an absolute tidal wave of lies and vibes from people who should know better.

No comments: