Apologies for the late update on what's happening in the UK. There was a media frenzy yesterday, with all the usual misinformation, and I was tied up handling media enquiries (including a live interview on Sky!)
There's a lot of misinformation out there at the moment. In fact, one of our shop managers telephoned us in a panic when he heard on the radio that e-cigarettes, from tomorrow, could only be sold in pharmacies.That's very far from the truth. What's happened is:
- the MHRA has called for e-cigarettes to be licensed as a medicine from 2016
- however, the final decision will NOT be made at the UK level, but in Europe
- according to the BBC, the MHRA will NOT recall any current models
Why it's a bad idea:
Impossible to comply with
The MHRA is calling for companies to apply for a licence now.
But one company has already spent four years and two million pounds trying to develop an electronic cigarette that complies - and failed.
As I understand it (and please correct me if you know more!), the problem is delivering nicotine in a measured dose. As smokers take different puffs, depending on the person and also the mood they are in, this has proved impossible.
So essentially they have created, possibly deliberately, a directive which is impossible to comply with.
To have a chance, companies would need to spend millions on development with no guarantee of success, hundreds of thousands more on applying for a licence, again with no guarantee of success.
Protecting the Tobacco Industry, Restricting the Safer Alternative
Generally cigarettes are estimated to kill between one third and one half of smokers.
Scientists estimate that electronic cigarettes are between 100 and 1000 times safer than tobacco cigarettes.
Indeed, Professor John Britton of the Royal College of Physicians believes that:
If all the smokers in Britain stopped smoking cigarettes and started smoking e-cigarettes we would save 5 million deaths in people who are alive today. It’s a massive potential public health prize.
Professor John Britton, chair of the Tobacco Advisory Group of the Royal College of Physicians Source: BBC
So, assuming that the government is not:
- aiming to protect their massive tobacco revenues
- or trying to protect the pharmaceutical industry
Why on earth are they trying to restrict access to an alternative that could save five million lives whilst allowing easy access to tobacco cigarettes?
It's Not A Medicine
It's simply ridiculous to make electronic cigarettes a medicine (and restrict access at the same time) when anyone can walk in and buy a cigarette.
Obviously, some people do try to use e-cigarettes to give up, but for many other people they are a safer and more enjoyable alternative to cigarettes.
Essentially, they are saying all us smokers are sick. I don't think that's the case - do you?
A large part of the reason for the legislation is to protect non-smokers and children.
But a huge survey of 12,000 adults and 2000 children shows it is just not an issue (see The Shocking Truth about E-Cigarettes and Children for more information).
And instead of this ridiculous opinion that has been published, why not just ban it for use for children under 18? That's what our industry body, ECITA, has been pushing for for years, and all our products carry a no under 18 logo.
Ignoring Existing Regulation
Despite the government's rhetoric, there are already a tonne of regulations covering e-cigarettes. The problem is that they are sporadically applied.
So, instead of making new regulations which would return a million or more users to traditional tobacco cigarettes, we should be enforcing existing regulations.
Below: I discuss the announcement on Sky News:
The Electronic Cigarette Industry Trade Association (ECITA) have a great blog post on the same topic here, and I have pinched some of the reactions they have published:
Clive Bates, a tobacco control advocate and former Director of Action on Smoking and Health UK:
Medicines regulation should apply to medicines, and electronic cigarettes are not medicines. These products are consumer alternatives to cigarettes – they provide nicotine in a much less harmful way than cigarettes and manufacturer do not make health claims, so why should they face high regulatory burdens?
See Clive Bates' post 10 Reasons Not To Regulated ECigarettes As Medicines for more on Clive's point of view.
Professor Gerry Stimson, Emeritus Professor, and one of the founders of Harm Reduction, instrumental in the development and evaluation of Harm Reduction in the UK:
This is a regrettable day for public health and a missed opportunity for hastening an end to smoking related illness and death. Rather than over-regulation, we should be moving towards encouraging the use of electronic cigarettes and other NCP, rather than putting obstacles in the way of smokers. It is bad Public Health policy to make it harder to obtain safer products than tobacco cigarettes.
Chris Price: E-Cigarette Politics (Well worth reading the full blogpost here)
Pharma has obviously decided that the EU process needs some pressure applied, as things look as if they are slipping in Brussels; and this is the result. If all goes to plan, they will maintain their iron grip on health regulation and keep the money flowing in. The status quo must be protected; interlopers who will cut disease by half are not welcome. Hundreds of thousands will die as a direct result, but who cares? The little people don't count.
What You Can Do
Want to do something about the proposed regulations? The best thing you can do is contact your MP and MEP. Explain how e-cigarettes have helped you, and why you are concerned about the MHRA's position. (As you can see from the Facebook comment from MEP Rebecca Taylor below, some politicians DO care and DO support vaping.)