I’m visiting Australia next week and looking forward to some good discussions with people holding any and all points of view on vaping, nicotine and smoking. My aim is to share experience from the US and UK where we are seeing encouraging uptake of low-risk vaping alongside an unusually rapid decline in smoking. Historically, UK has always had substantially higher levels of smoking than Australia, but in 2016 that gap has finally closed. Both countries have comprehensive tobacco policies – albeit with some differences in the details and Australia generally the first to do new measures, like plain packaging. But there is one major difference. UK (and especially England) now encourages smokers to switch to low-risk alternatives like vaping, while Australia actively prevents it and actually criminalises people who try to protect their own health in this way.
Five talking points inspired by the Royal College of Physicians
The embrace of vaping and other low-risk alternatives to smoking runs through the text. This is probably the first significant government policy paper anywhere that recognises and pursues the opportunities of tobacco harm reduction, rather than defining these technologies as a threat to be suppressed. For that, the Department of Health and its allies deserve considerable credit. Continue reading “English tobacco control plan embraces tobacco harm reduction – world first”
Dr Máirín Ryan said: “This HTA found a high level of uncertainty surrounding both the clinical and cost-effectiveness of e-cigarettes. While the long-term effects of using e-cigarettes have not yet been established, data from Healthy Ireland reveals that 29% of smokers currently use e-cigarettes as an aid to quitting smoking. HIQA’s analysis shows that increased uptake of e-cigarettes as an aid to quitting would increase the number of people who successfully quit compared with the existing situation in Ireland and would be cost-effective, provided that the currently available evidence on their effectiveness is confirmed by further studies.”
In Ireland, that is very positive!
The report is out for public consultation until the 3rd February 2017. The consultation page allows for a free-form response. You can put in whatever information you think will assist the review team. Here is my response, framed around five quotes from the Royal College of Physicians:
Welcome to a new report written by me, Clive Bates, with David Sweanor of Ottawa University, and Eli Lehrer, President of the R Street Institute. The fully designed report is available at R Street with press notice.
Reshaping American Tobacco Policy
Eight federal strategies to fight smoking and ignite a public health revolution
The report is an unforgiving and but fair critique of the United States’ federal approach to tobacco policy, which we think is an unmitigated regulatory disaster. Whatever the stated intent, the effect is to protect the cigarette trade from competition, damage pro-health American businesses, mislead and harm consumers and add unnecessarily to healthcare costs. Federal agencies are preoccupied with negligible or imaginary risks at the expense of great opportunities to address the health risks to America’s 38 million smokers. Around nine million vapers are already taking action to protect their health, the federal bureaucracy is set to block their efforts.
So far smart, self-interested consumers, innovative producers and disruptive technologies have interacted in a lightly regulated free market to begin to tackle the huge burden of disease arising from smoking. That is about to change: the dominant reaction of the federal government is to choke these highly positive developments with huge regulatory burdens, opaque authorization procedures, impossible evidential tests and misinformation about risks.
American federal tobacco policy couldn’t be much worse, but it could be a lot better. The fundamental change required is to embrace and maximise the huge opportunity of vapor and other low-risk nicotine products, while keeping a sense of proportion about minor risks.
European Commission consultation: the Commission is consulting on applying excise duties (i.e. tax) to vape products and other reduced risk alternatives to smoking – see here for consultation page with online form for interested parties to complete – please do add your response.
There is no case on principled or practical grounds to apply excise duties to vaping products and other products that offer a much safer alternative to smoking. The value to health and wellbeing associated with switching from smoking to vaping will exceed any benefits arising from revenue collection.