UK Considers Relaxing Vaping Laws

As more people than ever switch to vaping to stop smoking, health authorities are waking up to the fact that e-cigarettes can save lives, and that they should be promoted. Britain is leading the charge.

Urban lifestyle portrait of a man vaping in an urban environment with a custom vape mod device.

Once again, it’s all happening with vaping in Britain. While places here in the US ban flavored e-liquids — we’re looking at you, San Francisco — over fears that it might lead to a rise in teen smoking, in Britain, the authorities are considering allowing vaping in offices and even on public transport.

It’s part of a move by a group of politicians to make vaping more widely available to the public — and especially the approximate nine million smokers in Britain — and, in doing so, to save lives. Around 100,000 people in the UK — which comprises England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, the latter two countries of which have powers to make their own laws in some areas — die of tobacco-related illnesses every year.

The e-cigarette-supporting lawmakers in London are members of Parliament’s Science and Technology Committee, which, in August, published a report into vaping that examined any possible harms to health, and how e-cigs stack up against tobacco cigarettes. The report concluded that e-cigarettes “present an opportunity to significantly accelerate already declining smoking rates, and thereby tackle one of the largest causes of death in the UK today.”

Vaping under the Microscope

Committee chairman Norman Lamb described smoking as “a national health crisis” in the report and said the government should be doing all it can to get people who are hooked on cigarettes to stop smoking.

“E-cigarettes are less harmful than conventional cigarettes, but current policy and regulations do not sufficiently reflect this and businesses, transport providers and public places should stop viewing conventional and e-cigarettes as one and the same,” he said. “There is no public health rationale for doing so.”

He said, referring to the National Health Service (NHS), which provides free healthcare to everyone in the UK: “Concerns that e-cigarettes could be a gateway to conventional smoking, including for young non-smokers, have not materialised. If used correctly, e-cigarettes could be a key weapon in the NHS’s stop-smoking arsenal.”

The committee has recommended to the government that an advertising ban on e-cigarettes be lifted and that taxes on e-cigarettes be lowered. It also wants a scrapping of limits on nicotine levels in e-liquid refills.

“The limit on the strength of refills should be reviewed, as heavy smokers may be put off persisting with them — and the restriction on tank size does not appear to be founded on scientific evidence and should therefore urgently be reviewed,” the report says.

The Real Alternative

Indeed, a raft of scientific studies in the UK in recent years has concluded that vaping poses little or no risk to people’s health and that smokers should immediately switch to vaping instead. The most recent came from Public Health England earlier this year. The nation’s top health body said in a review of its vaping advisory that e-cigarettes are “at least 95% less harmful” than smoking and “of negligible risk to bystanders. Despite this, over half of smokers either falsely believe that vaping is as harmful as smoking or just don’t know.”

It added: “It would be tragic if thousands of smokers who could quit with the help of an e-cigarette are being put off due to false fears about their safety.”

Meanwhile, the NHS said during its annual Stoptober stop-smoking campaign that smokers intending to quit should not go “cold turkey”, because many find the withdrawal process too difficult and quickly return to smoking. Instead, it says, they should use e-cigarettes, along with various support channels.

“Thousands of people in England have already stopped smoking with the help of an e-cigarette. Plus, those who combine an e-cigarette with help from their local Stop Smoking Service have a high chance of success. In 2017-18, two-thirds of smokers who did so managed to stop smoking,” this year’s Stoptober advisory on vaping said.  

“E-cigarettes can help you manage your nicotine cravings. To get the most out of it, make sure you’re using it as much as you need to and with the right strength of nicotine in your e-liquid. You won’t get the full benefit from vaping unless you stop smoking cigarettes completely,” it advises.

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