One of the most common New Year resolutions is the promise to quit smoking. It is also one of the most commonly broken promises when the yearning for tobacco proves a little too strong.
All former smokers remember that wonderful feeling when they finally broke free. As a former smoker myself I would advise anyone struggling to keep their New Year’s resolution six weeks on to pick up a vaping device in place of the dreaded cancer stick if the willpower begins to wilt.
The millions of people who have quit the foul-smelling tobacco weed and switched to electronic alternatives now enjoy not only cleaner clothes, clearer lungs and longer lives, but also make life a little more pleasant for their family and others. This is because vaping provides nicotine, but does not release the smoke, tar, carbon monoxide and dozens of known carcinogens that have caused so much disease and taken so many lives.
Saving lives with vaping
Action on Smoking and Health estimates that 1.1 million former smokers have switched to e-cigarettes, and another 1.4 million use them in order to smoke less. The Department of Health recently published an independent report which unequivocally praised e-cigarettes in the strongest terms, concluding that by far the biggest risk is that people fail to realise just how beneficial they are to their health.
The Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology, which I chair, has also produced an impartial peer-group reviewed summary of the science available so far, which is definitely worth a read.
The vaping industry is burgeoning in the UK with 1,100 firms, 90% of which are Small and Medium-sized Enterprises. Not only are these innovative companies loosening the deadly grip of tobacco with new technology, but fierce price competition has lowered costs so much that, in addition to the health benefits of switching to e-cigarettes, smokers can save large sums of money too, often running to thousands of pounds a year.
It is hard to think of a better example of the benefits of the free market in action. The best response would be to simply allow e-cigarettes to flourish, other than to insist that their contents follow some form of quality control akin to foodstuffs given that they are ingested. Unfortunately, the EU has a habit of sticking its overly sensitive nose into such matters.
The threat to all the good work
One of the key aspects of the Prime Minister’s renegotiation of our relationship with the EU is the drive to cut back on the swaths of counterproductive regulation. The EU’s attitude to electronic vaping devices, commonly called e-cigarettes, is a perfect example of regulatory overload. Vaping devices have been the victim of a campaign of misinformation and scaremongering denying many smokers the striking benefits that they bring relative to cigarettes.
The new EU Tobacco Products Directive is in the process of being implemented by the UK. Tobacco is undoubtedly a carcinogenic mass killer deserving of regulation, but the directive bizarrely extends the tobacco regulations to vaping, which is completely tobacco-free!
Dozens of small and innovative firms will be bankrupted by the labyrinth of requirements under these onerous regulations. Worse still, as choice evaporates we could see many people relapse to smoking.
Brussels is ironically creating a major deterrent to heavy smokers trying to quit by banning the higher-strength nicotine e-cigarettes which are so often chosen as a first step to breaking the habit of lifetime.
This cack-handed over-regulation of new technologies will be as fatal to millions of smokers as it is for the businesses that make these life-saving devices.
Why do all this harm? Some voice vague concerns vaping may somehow “normalise” smoking; others suggest it may be a gateway for teenagers to real smoking. And some claim, without evidence, that it might cause more harm than smoking.
As I have long argued, we need evidence-based policy-making. And the weight of evidence today is unarguable: e-cigarettes reduce smoking and are far less damaging to our health.
The only beneficiaries will be tobacco companies, who want as many people as possible to remain addicted to smoking.
What we should do?
There is a ray of hope and room for manoeuvre. The UK Government has some discretion over how the EU directive is implemented.
If e-cigarette companies were to register their vaping devices as medical products, like nicotine patches, it might well lessen the impact. However, this would require the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency to radically speed up their processes given that only one company has managed to do so in the last five years!
A better, and more immediate, course of action would be for the Government to raise this issue with the EU and try to get the Directive’s clauses on electronic vaping devices watered down or repealed all together. Intransigence by the EU in ignoring our concerns is precisely why so many people in this country would like to leave the EU.
We must not let EU over-regulation undermine the fight against cancer. E-cigarettes are one of the best tools we have in the fight against cancer. They are saving lives today and will continue to save the lives of millions of people in the years to come.
I would urge my fellow MPs and the Government to take a deep breath and reject this baseless, counter-productive and harmful directive from the EU.
Adam Afriyie is the Conservative Member of Parliament for Windsor, and serves as Chairman of the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology.