Sunday, March 26, 2023
The Alternative Smoke-Free 2030 Plan
Christopher Snowdon (Independent), The Alternative Smoke-Free 2030 Plan (2022):
This year, Dr Javed Khan, former CEO of Barnardo’s, was commissioned by the Department of Health to draw up a plan to make England ‘smoke-free’ by 2030, a pledge made during Theresa May’s administration.
Khan’s prohibitionist recommendations included the painting of all cigarettes brown or green, annually increasing the age at which one can buy cigarettes by one year, hiking tobacco taxes by over 30 per cent until a pack of cigarettes costs around £20, and much more.
An alternative strategy to prohibition, a proven failure, would be to emphasise the resounding success of vaping and other tobacco-alternatives in getting people off cigarettes. As of this year, 28 per cent of smokers have never even tried an e-cigarette. Removing barriers to consumers accessing safer tobacco-alternatives is vital.
Tackling pervasive misinformation about the risks of e-cigarettes would be an excellent start. Currently, 40 per cent of English smokers falsely believe that nicotine causes cancer and the number of smokers who wrongly think that vaping is as or more dangerous than smoking rose by 17 per cent between 2014 and 2020. Fixing this could involve the government ensuring that public health bodies are consistent in publishing reports on the benefits of vaping.
Reforming areas of the EU imposed Tobacco Products Directive (TPD) is a further action that should be taken. Article 20 of the TPD exacts punitive regulations on e-cigarettes, covering everything from advertising to the size of refillable vape tanks. Cutting this red tape will lift powerful barriers to access.
Increasing the availability of other low-risk tobacco alternatives such as snus, heated tobacco and nicotine pouches is also needed. All these products are currently subjected to overzealous regulation, with snus being completely outlawed in the UK. Deregulation of these products will provide smokers will valuable low-risk alternatives.
It is important to acknowledge that the UK has generally regulated e-cigarettes sensibly. But with a greater focus on articulating the benefits of switching to low-risk tobacco alternatives and relaxing the associated regulatory regime, smoking may truly become obsolete.