Think tank Demos has set out a new vision for the ecig government policy in the United Kingdom, throwing its weight behind tobacco harm reduction and electronic cigarettes. The centre ground body is classed as “transparent” by the analysis website ‘Who Funds You?’, which gave Demos an A grade in 2022. The timely announcement should give confidence to those in charge of ecig policy at a time emotive attacks are being launched across national media.
While several political think tanks have spoken out in support of the use of electronic cigarettes, almost all of them reside on one side of the political spectrum and receive part of their funding from the tobacco industry. This is what makes Demos’ intervention important as well as timely.
Demos draws support and advice from both sides of the House and, in being transparent regarding its funding, is one of the most trusted think tanks. Therefore, when it speaks up about “A new vision for vaping policy in the UK”, it is highly likely politicians are going to listen.
In 2019, the UK Government announced its intention to make England smoke-free by 2030. Demos calls this ambition “a laudable goal”. The trouble, Demos points out, is that all is not going to plan.
“Smoking remains the leading preventable cause of illness and premature death in the UK and is a primary driver of health inequality in England. However, in 2023, we are on a course to miss this target, with the recent Khan review on smoke free policies predicting that, on our current trajectory, around 7% of the UK – over 4.8 million people – will still smoke in 2030. The Government’s target is 5%.”
Recently, the country has seen multiple Health secretaries come and go – we are now on our 5th since the smoke-free England announcement was made. Demos thinks the government is running out of time, that smoking continues to place a devastating impact on individuals and society, and that urgent change must be made. It argues that vaping plays a key role in that.
“Our white paper, Smoke without fire, has sought to identify ways of encouraging smokers to switch to e-cigarettes without introducing non-smokers to nicotine.”
·Significant expansion in public information campaigns promoting e–cigarettes as less harmful nicotine alternatives
·More investment from the Office for Health Improvements and Disparities to fund the campaigns
·Local authorities to work with stop smoking services to target and provide adult smokers in deprived communities with free Swap to Stop packs. (This has been trialled around the country, with a 2019 scheme in Greater Manchester finding that 62% of those who had used it had stopped smoking within four weeks)
·The Government must modify the Tobacco and Related Products regulations and the Committee of Advertising Practice regulations to allow government-approved messages promoting electronic cigarettes as less harmful to be included both online and on inserts in cigarette packets
The Government has previously said it is currently taking into consideration the recommendations of the Khan Review which made similar proposals. It is excellent that Demos is so confident in the scientific evidence surrounding vaping that it believes such positive action should be taken to promote it more widely.