For the first blog post of the year (after a rather long xmas break ;)) I was hoping to do something more positive. But unfortunately the battle to keep ecigs legal continues!
Last year the Welsh government launched an attack on ecigarettes which contained several inaccuracies.
Yet despite highlighting concerns over the safety and quality of ecigs, they have refused to discuss concrete proposals to ensure ecigs are both good and safe.
I suggested that rather working with rather than against the Welsh ECigarette industry (for example, by ensuring that all ecigarette companies test their eliquid in government approved laboratories,) the Welsh Government can help to maximise the quality and safety of electronic cigarettes.
Their reply is below:
Welsh Government Reply to Our ECig Regulation Proposal
Dear Mr Dunworth
Thank you for your email of 16 December requesting a meeting to discuss the Welsh Government’s stance on e-cigarettes.
I am aware there has been a rapid increase in the use, availability and promotion of e-
cigarettes. Whilst I acknowledge that some people have had success in using them to quit smoking, I am concerned about the dangers of creating a new addiction and the quality, safety and efficacy of the available products.
In addition, as other experts have pointed out, the question is not whether ecigarettes are safe in an absolute sense, but whether they are safer. And many scientists, as well as the MHRA and ASH UK, believe they are orders of magnitude safer than tobacco cigarettes.
Finally, our proposal would have helped to ensure that all ecigarettes sold were as safe as possible.]
Whilst the regulation of medicines is not a devolved matter, I was pleased that in the final discussions on the revised Tobacco Products Directive this week, EU Member States agreed that nations which regulate nicotine containing products (NCPs) including e- cigarettes as medicines could continue to do so.
[Note: The cost of medicinal regulation will ensure that the only companies able to produce ecigarettes are those with the least motivation to do so - the tobacco companies.
In addition, medicinal regulation as currently proposed in the UK requires technology that has not yet been invented.]
This will ensure there are controls regarding safety, quality and efficacy of NCPs making medicinal claims as well as controls on how they are marketed and age of sale.
[Note: Part of our suggestion was that the Welsh government examines the use of the ECITA Industry Standard of Excellence, a framework of regulation which has been drawn up by experts, with consultation on trading standards, and which requires mandatory testing of all eliquid by government approved labatories.
Unfortunately, the Welsh government does not appear interested in these regulation which would undoubtedly improve safety and quality.]
I also welcomed the decision to extend the scope of the Directive to include e-cigarettes not regulated as medicines and regulate their safety through a number of safeguards such as maximum nicotine levels. I look forward to working with the Department of Health to implement the provisions of the revised TPD in Wales once it is formally adopted in early 2014.
In the meantime, we recommend consumers exercise a great deal of caution if considering using these products. We also urge people to speak to their GP or contact Stop Smoking Wales for help to stop smoking, rather than relying on e-cigarettes alone.
[Note: Unforunately, current attempts to reduce smoking have been a massive failure, leading to a 1% decrease in smoking over several years. Ecigarettes are an alternative to smoking for people who can't or don't want to quit.]
You may be aware that I participated in a short debate on the regulation of e-cigarettes in Plenary on 11 December. Given that my position on e-cigarettes is fully outlined in the transcript of the debate, available on the Assembly website at http://www.assemblywales.org/docs/rop_xml/131211_plenary_bilingual.xml#121297, and I don’t believe that a meeting would add materially to the position in Wales at this time.
I understand that you have requested a similar meeting with Edwina Hart MBE, CStJ, AM, Minister of Economy, Science and Transport and I am copying my response her office.
Mark Drakeford AC / AM
Y Gweinidog Iechyd a Gwasanaethau Cymdeithasol
Minister for Health and Social Services
Our Proposal to the Welsh Government
I am a director and co-founder of Gower Enterprises, a Welsh e-cigarette retailer, exporter and manufacturer of eliquid with more than thirty employees, all of whom are paid at least a Living Wage salary and performance bonuses.
I would like to request a meeting to discuss the Welsh Government’s stance on electronic cigarettes, as I believe some of the recent statements made by the Welsh Government demonstrate an incomplete understanding of the e-cigarette and tobacco harm reduction industry today.
As you may know, our industry body (which is based in Wales) has designed a framework of regulation to ensure the safety and quality of e-cigarettes sold by members.
These regulations include mandatory testing of eliquid in a government approved laboratory and a ban on selling e-cigarettes to children.
This framework of regulations were described by a Trading Standard’s officer as:
“… a code any industry would be proud to have.”
We have also gathered a substantial body of interviews with experts and scientists.
I believe that public health will benefit enormously if the Welsh e-cigarette industry and the WelshGovernment work together to ensure that the public has accurate information and that consumers have the best possible quality e-cigarette products available.
Please note that I have also written to the Minister of Economy, Science and Transport.
I look forward to hearing from you.
cc The Minister of Economy, Science and Transport, The Western Mail, This is South Wales
What do you think? How can we reach the Welsh government – or are they even interested in what we think?