E-Cigarettes are a hot topic.
The EU is consulting on what to do about them, and the MHRA next year will decide whether to effectively ban the devices, introduce regulation or do nothing.
So we decided to ask several e-cigarette bloggers, presenters and campaigners what they thought would happen.
We’d also like to know what YOU think – so please leave your comments below this post!
David Dorn, Presenter of Vapour Trails
E-cigs are unlikely to be banned in the UK. They will, however, very likely be regulated, primarily because HMG is already aware of them, understands them, and favours them over smoking tobacco as a means of obtaining nicotine. What form that regulation will take is open to conjecture, however, as various stakeholders each have their own take on ‘what’s best’ – ostensibly for the British public, but actually for their own ideologies and financial aspirations.
Russell V. Ord of the Campaign for Vaping in Pubs
I do not believe that ecigs will be banned in the UK as the British Government is wise enough to understand that smokers switching to this alternative significantly reduce their risk of developing the diseases associated with smoking tobacco. My concern however is that other organisations that influence the Government and public opinion are rushing in to make statements about ecigs that have no basis in fact, an example being the BMA’s recommendation that the use of electronic cigarettes should be banned along with smoking in public places. I sincerely hope and believe that Her Majesty’s Government will continue to base it’s policies on fact and not on hearsay.
Katherine Devlin of The Electronic Cigarette Trade Association
The short answer is simply ‘no’, but to explain why may take a little longer.
Firstly, it is important to remember that since the previous UK government handed the question of electronic cigarette regulation to the MHRA, there have been many significant changes – in government itself, but also in wider policy-making circles and elsewhere. The current coalition government takes a very different view than the previous labour government where the concept of ‘regulation’ is concerned, in being far less keen on onerous and excessive regulatory interference in industry.
In real terms, this means that this government is far less likely to pursue burdensome, enterprise-stifling over-regulation of electronic cigarettes, particularly since there is a growing body of evidence to support what vapers have known all along: electronic cigarettes are simply a far safer and healthier way to enjoy nicotine when compared with any form of traditional smoking.
There are other changes, too, which support the fact that we are likely to see sensible policy decisions on electronic cigarettes in the not too distant future, notably the recent dramatic increase in published studies demonstrating that traditional NRT products are not the solutions they have always claimed to be. The increase in such studies – published in reputable journals from various sources – means that it would be very difficult for a ‘pharma agenda’ to reign supreme. Set this in the context of the current drive for governmental transparency, and a ban on electronic cigarettes in the UK looks like a pretty remote possibility.
They won’t be banned because luckily we are now strong enough to successfully fight a ban. However, they certainly will be regulated more strictly – the question is how much and by whom. It needs to be recognised that the Department of Health has elements within it that are subject to regulatory capture – their agenda is the same as that of the pharmaceutical industry, whether or not that is in the interests of public health: pharma income will be protected even if that is contrary to the public good.
An outright ban failed because the current government will not allow new regulations unless (1) they can show protection against a provable threat of harm, (2) they have a provable benefit to industry and public, and (3) most importantly, the regulators also designate one regulation that can also be removed at the same time. In other words: protection and balance. None of those conditions could be met by the MHRA’s first attempt. However their paymasters will not accept that as an answer, and so they must try again – this time at law. Unfortunately there are no legal arguments that hold water, and every government ban paid for by pharma in every country has so far been defeated when challenged at law (in the USA, Holland and Germany).
Again, this will not stop pharma as they have a £1.5 billion drugs trade in the UK to protect, which is likely to face more than a 50% cut eventually as more smokers switch to ecigs: the hugely profitable drug trade for treating sick smokers. The market for chemotherapy drugs, COPD drugs, cardiac drugs, vascular drugs and other treatments for sick smokers will be protected at all costs, and it is about 50% of the annual £2.7bn cost of treating sick smokers in the UK plus sales via the private health channels. It means their final route to kill off ecigs must be via tougher and tougher regulations brought in by alternative means. This is the process now starting to be seen in the USA: when all legal avenues fail, resort to back-door regulations that can in effect do the same job.
The question is, how can pharma get some sort of regulations in place to gradually throttle e-cigarettes bit by bit, until they can be made unattractive to buyers? Make no mistake – they have hundreds of millions of pounds available to ‘resolve’ this problem. Everyone has their price. When you hear a government agency supporting ecigarette regulations – you’ll know where the problem has been ‘resolved’. My guess is that government will approve ‘light touch’ regulations, that year by year become more restrictive and also allow for more and more unjustifiable tax to be added: a ban by any other name. Somebody somewhere has a mortgage to pay and will be receptive to persuasion; and we already know that it’s OK to kill at least 10,000 UK citizens a year by preventing access to safe nicotine products (the Snus ban). We already know that the lives of UK citizens do not count when balanced against pharma profit.
Pharma has a massive drugs trade to protect, and will never lie down and let that be taken away by people not getting sick due to switching to safer products. Pharma needs smokers – at any cost.
The Ecigarette industry is up against three incredibly powerful ‘opponents’ as i see it at the moment – Big Tobacco, Big Phrama and HMRC.
Big Tobacco companies could well be waiting to see the ‘Lie of the Land’ before commiting themselves – if Ecigs are seen as a ‘safer’ ‘low-risk’ opportunity for them, as Lorillard Inc. has with acquiring Blu Cigs – then the danger could come from BT dominating the market and effectively removing the opposition via Advertising in the same way that Coke and Pepsi do – which would leave small companies with a niche market – the mass market being ‘Homogenised’ BT approved products – ‘The Marlboro Man Ecig’?
Big Pharmaceutical Companies, are more likely ro want ecigs banned as they are in direct competition to their FDA and MHRA approved NRT products – even though they may not be as effective (or because of it?) – it still generates millions of dollars for them and they aren’t happy.
Both these groups have huge political lobbying ‘wings’ who may have the power to initiate a ban or at lest try to enforce legislation that is detrimental (from out point of view) to the growth of the Ecig industry.
The 3rd opponent id the HMRC (Government Income) and if they feel that they can’t or is beneficial not to ban outright, Ecigs, then they would definitely be pushing to replace some of the ‘Lost Income’ that less Tobacco sales will give them – especially as the majority of the money for manufacturing is leaving the country and filling China’s coffers.
I don’t see an outright permanent ban, though the idea of ‘Vape Easy’s’ is amusing, but I could see a ‘Temporary suspension of further sales’ until FDA/MHRA approval – possibly leaving only products like ‘Intellicig’ on the market during this period – as they seem to have been positioning themselves for this eventuality.
Bearing in mind that both the FDA and MHRA approve/endorse NRT – despite it’s known 5% success rate – the idea of an ‘Approved’ ecig doesn’t do anything but make me want to go out and buy a mod that will last a lifetime, a Rebuildable Atomiser and a few Gallons of Juice – just in case!
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