Adam Afriyie MP: Will the EU inadvertently undermine the fight against cancer?

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.

Confusing objections

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.

Follow him on Twitter.

Showing 20 reactions

  • John Davies
    commented 2016-02-19 23:38:45 +0000
    There are many people in this world of ours who could benefit from switching from smoking to vaping but they are getting put off by the main stream media who are constantly spouting rubbish. Examples of this rubbish are vaping is a gateway to smoking, vaping is less healthy then smoking and sweet e liquids are encouraging non smoking teenagers to take up vaping. Why do this when vaping could save so many lives.
    I encourage any smoker reading this comment to give e cigarettes a go. But not one of the ones you see that look like a cigarette with a little glowing end. Go to Vape shop and discover a viable alternative to smoking. It will save your health other’s around you and will save you massive amount of money.
  • Jessica Harding
    commented 2016-02-19 23:15:00 +0000
    Thank you for this excellent piece. I think though that you may have underestimated the amount of businesses which will be bankrupted as a result of the onerous requirements of the TPD – it’s likely to be a lot more than the dozens you mention. The testing requirements are especially expensive – in the region of £5,000 per SKU (that’s a frequently quoted figure, it’s hard to get an accurate one at this point but the consensus is that it won’t be cheap!). Miles and miles of paperwork is required too -that’s another significant but hidden cost. It also seems reasonable to assume that many SME’s will simply shut up shop rather than risk bankruptcy.
  • Quinn Dexter
    commented 2016-02-19 21:40:38 +0000
    One day in my forties I discovered vaping and stopped smoking overnight. Immediately. No Side effects, no hiccups, no relapse, no going back – ever. And I’m not alone. 2 years ago in my office there were 30 staff, 7 of whom were smokers and 1 vaper (me). Now there are 30 staff, 8 of whom are vapers and not one, solitary smoker. All those middle aged vapers with their variety of mods, tanks and many preferred flavours have turned their backs on tobacco forever. We all have happy GPs who have noticed the improvement in our health, the asthma that has almost disappeared from one of them, the high blood pressure that is no longer a problem to another, the inflammatory problems that have eased for a couple more. In 2015 we took a total of 46 days less sick leave than we did in 2013 when they were all smokers. Just in my office alone, all those people have improved their lives and those of their families who have more money in their pockets, who don’t have to put up with nasty smells, looking after them when they get ill, or kicking their heels whilst they wait for them to come back inside after a smoke. The NHS and therefore EVERY taxpayer in the country has benefitted by them needing less healthcare, our employer has benefitted from 46 more days of productivity. EVERYONE WINS!
    So why do I keep reading stories about vaping supposedly not helping people quit? Why am I surrounded by misinformation and puritanical crusading trying to paint vaping in an even worse light than smoking? Why is it every time I hear of a positive study (which are many) proving the value of vaping, I see little or no coverage, yet I am bombarded by instantly disproven, junk science stories claiming everything from gateways to addiction to deadly carcinogens in our vapour? Didn’t I just say EVERYONE was a winner? So who the hell is out there trying to rain on everybody’s parade? Who has an agenda that might not benefit from a rapid decrease in the number of smokers? Who makes the most money out of the sick and the dying? Who would lose the fortunes made by marketing ineffective therapies for smokers up to now? Who would miss out on billions made off the back of ludicrously overpriced, life prolonging drugs if less of us suffered and died of cancer, or heart disease? Who cares more about their own big houses, fast cars, expense accounts, luxury business trips and easy life, than they do about whether myself and my colleagues live , die, or struggle with avoidable ill health? and while we’re at it – who else might find themselves out of a job, having nobody left to treat or counsel if everyone just stopped smoking without their help?
    That’s a lot of questions. I’m sure you all know the answers. We have a revolution on our hands. A technology has arisen which has changed the rules, levelled the playing field for those of us who struggled against an addiction we all regretted having chosen years before. Those who’s self perpetuating existence might stop thanks to this radical change tried very hard to ban our life saving new tech, or solely as medicine (for what ailment?) but they failed. Where they have succeeded is in hyping up the media from the background attempting to sway public opinion to their self serving point of view to the point where public venues and workplaces are banning vaping on the premises with no evidence to support their decision, only a “just in case” rationale. They have manipulated anonymous, unelected European bureaucrats into reclassifying vaping devices as tobacco products and limiting our access to the variety and scope which has helped so many of us to succeed where before we repeatedly failed.
    I’ve one last question for you: The TPD article 20 is a disgrace. The media smearing is unconscionable. The selfish, money driven effort to maintain a lucrative gravy train at the expense of millions of almost helpless victims is a crime against humanity. How long are we going to let them get away with it?
  • Roy Hawkins
    commented 2016-02-19 16:11:07 +0000
    This Article 20 is totally absurd in every respect. I have to question how much input Big Tobacco have had over this legislation, especially as the device adopted by the NHS as a Quite Smoking Aid is manufactured by British American Tobacco. Interestingly, Article 20 also appears to state that the device must be capable of delivery a constant level of nicotine throughout its life. How many people believe that any e-cigarette using a throw-away cartridge can achieve this? As I understand it, we will only be able to buy e-liquids in 10 ml bottles and the maximum tank capacity is to be restricted to 2 ml. If we are worried about the environment, how can anyone justify producing and then throwing away 3 × 10ml bottles in place of 1 × 30ml bottle. Likewise, having to refill 2ml tanks 2 or 3 times as often also exposes everyone to the possibility of spills and contamination from the e-liquid.

    To stop children buying cigarettes with their pocket money, I understand sales are now restricted to packets of 20!!! Now those people who restricted their smoking to a maximum of 10 cigarettes a day, by buying just 10, will still have cigarettes available after their normal daily allowance would perhaps have been exhausted, late in the evening. I believe this move may possibly increase the number of cigarettes some people will smoke. Was Big Tobacco involved in this legislation too?

    I’ve twice written to my local MP, David Lidington and I’m still waiting for an acknowledgement! Sadly, I believe he has recently accepted gifts from the Japanese Tobacco Industry although I await his confirmation of this and his reasons for accepting such gifts. We should all contact or local MPs to register our concerns.

    Perhaps we should all emigrate to California or any of the States that have also introduced Dickensian legislation.
  • WASarginson
    commented 2016-02-19 11:17:25 +0000
    Sensible and good comments from Adam Afriyie. Article 20 of the TPD is unfair and downright ridiculous. Everyone who vapes should be voicing their concern here, and indeed everywhere they possibly can.
  • graham dillon
    commented 2016-02-19 05:34:07 +0000
    its great that the conservatives are on side with ecigs unlike the labour party but I really do think they need to do more to get rid of the harm that is the tpd. these restrictions on ecigs due to the tpd are more harsh than tobacco products. why they have labeled ecigs as a tob product is beyond belief as they don’t contain any constituents of tob at all.
  • John Davies
    commented 2016-02-19 02:43:46 +0000
    The great thing about Vaping is that it will if left alone save lives.
    It has been estimated that a billion lives will be lost to smoking this century if nothing is done to help smokers to either switch to something less harmful (vaping) or give up.
    I chose to switch to vaping as I tried NRT through a smoking cessation service and it didn’t work for me.
    It was one of the best things I have ever done. I started vaping 24mg e liquid which stoped me returning to cigarettes.
    What has kept me from returning to smoking in my opinion is will power, nicotine and choice.
    Unfortunately the TPD will limit choice which is a shame.
    Please leave vaping alone as much as you can.
  • Gary Wheatley
    commented 2016-02-18 17:55:12 +0000
    I am glad to see a politician that has grasped the great benifits that vaping brings to help people stop smoking.
    I dont think the EU "inadvertantly"set out to undermine vaping they know full well what article 20 will do and have set this up to protect revenue generated by tobacco use and vested interests in big tobacco and big pharma companies,maybe Adam Afriyie could remind his fellow MP’s and the Prime minister there are approximately 2.6 million vapers in the UK to consider when it comes to the in/out referendum.These restrictions and all this meddling by the EU is going to cost lives,many many lives,this in any decent society should not be allowed to happen,although it looks like it already has,lets just hope that the UK government goes as softly as possible in regards to implementation as humanly possible or better still refuses point blank to adopt this ridiculous directive,personally I wont be holding my breath(which I can do for alot longer now thanks to vaping).These are sad times for personal freedom,thanks for sticking your nose in EU youve condemned a very many people to a slow lingering death,their blood will be on your hands but then I dont suppose you care much about that.
  • Georgio Konstandi
    commented 2016-02-18 16:38:55 +0000
    This is another perfect example of the disastrous consequences of the EU’s over-regulation. The EU does not represent ‘an ever closer union’, but rather a platform on which the few can dictate to the many. We, as Brits, should fight against this.
  • Alano Aramo
    commented 2016-02-18 14:03:40 +0000
    Politicians of Europe will be responsible for an increasing number of smoking related deaths.
    Politicians will be responsible for the continuation of Big tobacco profits.
  • Robert Edwards
    commented 2016-02-18 13:04:59 +0000
    A little correction to my comment (I mentioned BMA, I meant the PHE!):
    The UKs PHE have stated cigarettes are 95% safer, countless other Scientists have also tested and supported this evidence too.
  • Pointydigit
    commented 2016-02-18 11:55:28 +0000
    “Worse still, as choice evaporates we could see many people relapse to smoking.”

    You and your colleagues (on all sides of the house) should be in no doubt whatsoever that the forthcoming legislation will – not could, not might – lead to very many vapers relapsing into smoking.
    The fundamental working principle behind vaping is that it’s an almost infinitely variable experience that can be perfectly honed by the user to meet his or her very specific requirements. It’s completely impossible to generalise the vaping experience so that it fits within even a broad set of parameters – and trying to do so will make it ineffective for a considerable number of users. Refine those parameters still further and the disillusionment will grow exponentially.

    Vapers have never feared regulation, but it needs to be proportional, pertinent and protective. Standards for batteries and chargers, guarantees of liquid purity, quality control assurances etc. – these are all reasonable expectations, and are all easily covered by existing consumer legislation.
    Thereafter, the market is demonstrably capable of looking after itself. Consumer demand fuels product innovation, ongoing (credible and properly peer-reviewed) independent studies provide reassurance and caution, and a wide user-base with a vibrant network of communication combined with highly competitive market rapidly weeds out fly-by-night traders and poor business models.

    When the TPD comes into force its most immediate effect will be to curtail the choice of many hundreds of thousands of vapers. When you limit the choices in vaping you limit its efficacy.
    As an ex-smoker yourself I’m sure you’ll be aware that it takes very little to persuade the would-be quitter to give up giving up – and unless they have complete freedom to tailor the vaping experience to suit their particular needs and desires, they’ll just ditch the whole idea and carry on smoking. And there’s little point referring them to the ‘traditional’ range of stop-smoking products, because it’s a proven fact that they have a truly dismal success rate.

    The question legislators must ask themselves is “Are we facilitating an exit from smoking – or merely putting obstacles in the way of the door?”
    They must also ask themselves who will carry the can when the already mounting evidence in favour of the health gains from vaping finally overwhelm the all-too-obvious media smear campaign that’s being laid down as a pre-TPD barrage.

    The whole thing is a catalogue of lies, incompetence, misinformation, spurious data, obsolete statistics and a complete mockery of the democratic process. It will stand as possibly the single most egregious, ludicrous and harmful piece of legislation foisted on the public in living memory. And people will die as a direct result of it.
  • Robert Edwards
    commented 2016-02-18 10:56:16 +0000
    Finally a well produced article highlighting many factors that have been totally ignored in general by
    the EU, MHRA and their affiliates.

    The EU TPD is a farce and a potential death warrant for many smokers who have yet to make the transition to a proven 95% safer alternative. It will send the technology & nicotine strength back to a level that is wholly ineffective to many long term smokers who have heavy smoking habits that have tried and failed on the current offered NRT treatments. NRT simply does not work (but is very profitable).

    Is the Prime Minister happy to approve a regulation that will render e-cigarettes ineffective and in turn stop people from quitting smoking? It will mean many people will continue to die from smoking related illnesses.

    The UKs BMA have stated cigarettes are 95% safer, countless other Scientists have also tested and supported this evidence too.

    The EU has however completely ignored this fact. They have also funded and released biased propaganda to down play the safety and effectiveness of cigarettes which is frankly criminal.

    The TPD has been decided in an undemocratic way behind closed doors by unelected officials in favour of the Tobacco & Pharmaceutical industries. They have totally brushed aside common sense and scientific evidence in favour of their own vested interests. Basically money.

    The TPD will also destroy many UK born businesses due to the costs envolved in developing and testing liquid and equipment. The costs are extraordinary and generally pointless – I see these as a backdoor TAX.

    The ingredients involved in e-cigarette liquid have already been tested; nicotine base (the suspension liquid that contains the substance), PG & VG ( the diluting and visible vapour producing liquid) are already thoroughly tested. The quality that is used in the production of e-cigarette liquid is Pharmaceutical grade. The highest grade that can be produced – there is no higher grade. The flavourings used are also tested by reputable labs to show the chemical content and safety levels of what they find. This procedure is already followed by the major flavour producing companies and also by many retailers to double check the products they are selling.

    By destroying the businesses is the Prime Minister aware he will be ruining the lives of the Employers and employees of an ever increasing multi million pound industry? He will also effectively be signing a death warrant for the 3 million plus current Vapers (common applied name) and millions of other smokers yet to make the transition. Many will never shift to e-cigarettes and those who have, will return to smoking as supplies dwindle and equipment vanishes from sale. The freedom of choice is currently what has helped make this so effective. It means people can tailor how they want to use these devices and what they put into them. It has been a huge factor in the success of these devices and their content. If you ask people who are already using these you will find how diverse everyone is.

    If the TPD is to be implemented it will be a disaster and a crime. Please do not allow this to happen.
    I have always voted for your party however if this regulation is implemented I will never do so again.

    It is time to listen to the people and scientists, read the true facts, take in the undeniable evidence and act ethically and morally. It is the right approach to take.
  • Liam Bryan
    commented 2016-02-18 09:39:53 +0000
    Great piece Adam – 1 thing I haven’t been able to find out (despite emailing various clerks and the DoH and speaking to my own MP) – will the “TPD” go before the house, a committee or just pass into law without further scrutiny? Thanks.
  • Boudicca Gigosis
    commented 2016-02-17 18:31:36 +0000
    Hurrah. Sense….pity its so late in the day. The simple fact that I don’t smoke is entirely down to a “Battery Torch” (aka Electronic Cigarette) some “Food Flavouring” some “Glycerine” and a wee amount of Nicotine. Yet this is exactly what the current changes to the Law as it stands will ban me from using. Instead I will either have to go back to Tobacco Cigarettes or a Medical grade nicotine inhaler (Not an Electronic Cigarette in any sense) that just doesn’t work supplied ironically by the winners in all this stupidity, The Drug companies and the Tobacco companies both who have a vested interest in ensuring there is an infinite supply of cancer stick victims to cure and recure and recure or DIE!
  • Roger Hall
    commented 2016-02-17 14:15:08 +0000
    A sensible albeit too little too late piece, but nevertheless highly appreciated and indeed welcomed. The ramifications of Article 20 within the TPD will be long lasting (10 years) and will undoubtedly place regulatory barriers on an industry that are both unnecessary and burdensome. The success of e-cigs as a consumer led 95% less harmful, non combustion alternative to tobacco smoking should be lauded. Consumer popularity should not be a pathway for regulation but insofar as the EU is concerned they seemingly failed to grasp the logic of “if it ain’t broke don’t try to fix it”. However, whilst the role of the EU in ignoring the scientific advice and legislating Article 20 behind closed doors with scant regard to democracy is worrying to say the least, it must also be highlighted that insofar as the UK’s own political machinery is concerned parliamentary scrutiny of Article 20 was also abused by the government’s own representative. The smokers and vapers of the UK were also not allowed any UK parliamentary debate or even discussions thus making a mockery of the fact that our Westminster parliamentary representatives are there to represent us. They weren’t allowed to represent us, yet here we have an EU legislation that affects millions of UK citizens and the Houses of Parliament was simply bypassed. Is it any wonder that UK citizens have become disillusioned and worried about our relationship with the EU and the fact that democracy can be so easily bypassed. If I don’t like the Government’s policies at least I can have the opportunity to cast my vote against them at the next general election, but with EU legislation once written in the EU statute book not even a change of UK Government can easily reverse it. I’m all for UK politicians and the Government rejecting this baseless, counter-productive and harmful Directive from the EU, but perhaps the most logical route isn’t having to try and reverse more bad EU legislation, but simply leaving the EU, so that democracy within Westminster can return.
  • Richard Larkins
    commented 2016-02-17 13:28:50 +0000
    Eminently sensible article which raises not just the usual problems that over-regulation can cause but in this case it will almost certainly contribute to premature death on a significant scale. It was always inappropriate to include e-cigs in the Tobacco Products Directive but recent evidence as identified by Public Health England makes it clear that it is also dangerous.
    I managed to break a 43 year heavy smoking habit using e-cigs and after many failures with other methods. They changed my life.
    Many thanks to Adam Afriyie for his stand on this issue.
  • Matt Spink
    commented 2016-02-17 12:05:38 +0000
    At last! An MP that actually gets where we are coming from! I wrote to my MP, Greg Clark, and whilst he did take the time to reply, his response was basically that it was out of his hands.

    It seems like we have a voice in Adam Afriyie – please continue to try and impress this message on your fellow members of government Adam.
  • John Davies
    commented 2016-02-17 11:39:56 +0000
    I haven’t had a cigarette for 4 years all because of vaping. I have enough kit to be not that bothered by the TPD.
    I do feel sorry for smokers yet to to take up vaping as the directive is going to ban high nicotine e liquids which a smoker may need to switch to e cigarettes.
    Many small UK companies will not be able to continue trading as the cost of testing there e liquids will be to high which is in my opinion a crying shame.
    The problem is that your government is going to comply with these rules and regulations and many people are going to loose the company’s and job’s.
    I am glad that your government is going for a light touch implementation of the TPD but I would be much happier if your guverment ignored the European Parliament and left Vapers alone to do what they already doing without regulation.
    It is already illegal to sell vaping products to under 18s and vaping equipment is already CE regulated.
    The only people who are going to come out of all this with smiles on there faces are the Pharmaceutical companies and the tobacco companies. Big pharma are losing out to e cigs as people are using e cigs instead of there NRT products and big tobacco will do anything to protect there profits including whispering in European MP ears.
  • Willoughby Chase
    commented 2016-02-17 10:03:45 +0000
    Normally I’d chew off my right leg rather than support anything that comes out of the conservative camp, however, this is an insightful and well written piece with a rare grasp of the fundamental problems the TPD will bring. I smoked for twenty-three years, I quit seven times, I only stopped once, that was three years ago when I made an overnight switch to vaping.
    My house smells nice, my clothes smell nice, my lung capacity is back to the levels it was when I was an active 16 year old and I watch in horror as the government sets in place laws that will inevitably lead me back to smoking. This is madness, pure unadulterated madness, Public Health England and the NHS both agree this is 95% less harmful than smoking, but once the light touch implementation ends in May 2017 it will be easier (and no doubt cheaper) for me to get tobacco, than the less harmful alternative.
    I work in a vape shop, every week I help people quit smoking and make the switch to vaping, from there I help people either quit vaping, or continue to vape safely. Sometimes I think about the lives I might be saving, more often, recently, I think about the fact I’ll probably be unemployed in a year or so and I’ll go back to being surrounded by smokers and will, alas, follow them back to tobacco and my pipe.