Vape Bans Are Failing

Vape bans are failing, leading specialists have informed an Australian Senate Inquiry into Vaping, but that doesn’t mean they still aren’t present around the world. In the United Kingdom, we were presented with a raft of prohibitionist measures with the Tobacco and Vapes Bill, but matters have become altogether more serious as the Bill progressed to the committee stage.

The Tobacco and Vapes Bill seemed to mix a bit of common sense with a lot of non-evidenced based thinking. At the point it was presented to Parliament for the first vote, we knew the current Government planned to:

·Ban disposable/single-use vape products from manufacture, import and sale in the UK
·The Bill contained measures to change the law so that future governments can ban eliquid flavours, with a view to restricting our choice to just four – tobacco, mint, menthol and “fruit”
·To ban open display of vape products in non-specialist stores
·To ban colours and wording from vape packaging, again with a view to make it look like tobacco packaging
·To ban truthful advertising about harm reduction or quitting smoking statistics
·Plus, a price rise to come in the future from the Office of the Exchequer

What happened next?
As the Tobacco and Vapes Bill was successfully voted through the second reading, it proceeded to the committee stage.
The committee has come in for a lot of criticism, especially from the industry. Chaired by anti-vape Public Health Under Secretary Andrea Leadsom, the committee also features other staunch advocates of harsh restrictions on vaping such as Dr Caroline Johnson, Rachael Maskell, and Kirsten Oswald.
Industry figures questioned the make-up of the 16-member committee, pointing out that it “contained no MPs who voted against [the Bill]” and called it “ludicrously one-sided”. The UK Vaping Industry (UKVIA) complained of being shunned by the committee and said, “many of those asked to give evidence have publicly criticised vaping in one way or another.”

UKVIA’s Director General, John Dunne said: “Not only does this risk the Bill not facing proper scrutiny prior to its third reading, but it is fundamentally undemocratic, with the people this Bill will impact the most not being able to provide evidence on how the Bill can be improved.”

John Dunne’s prediction didn’t take long to come to pass. Just days later the committee was hearing from “a range of so-called stakeholders” presenting “some of the worse examples of the misinformation”. The UKVIA detailed the worst of the proceedings in its Chamber of Misinformation document and sent a letter of complaint to the MPs “to raise concerns over ‘misleading, incomplete, unsubstantiated, or incorrect’ information which was presented to the Tobacco and Vapes Bill Committee.”
The UKVIA debunked a number of the claims made during the evidence gathering sessions.

Where next?
On the back of the information the committee gathered, the sitting MPs decide whether they wish to add amendments to the Bill for when it returns to the House of Commons for its third and final vote.
Changes being made to the Tobacco and Vapes Bill during its process through the committee stage include:

·An amendment by Dr Caroline Johnson to ban vaping in public spaces – “This new clause would amend the Health Act 2006, which banned smoking in public places and certain vehicles, to include vaping.”

·An amendment by Dr Caroline Johnson to ban vape companies sponsoring sports teams – and “This new clause would amend the Communications Act 2003 so that advertising of vaping products on TV is banned before the watershed.”

·An amendment by Dr Caroline Johnson to ban vending machines – “This new clause would create an offence of managing or being in control of a premises on which a vaping product vending machine is available for use.”

·An amendment by Dr Caroline Johnson to ban advertising on buses and taxis – “This new clause would require the Secretary of State to make regulations to create an offence of displaying an advertisement for a vaping or nicotine product on public transpor”

·And an amendment by Rachael Maskell to extend the rolling sales ban on tobacco products to include all safer nicotine products like vapes – “This new clause would allow the Secretary of State, by regulations, to prevent the sale of vaping and nicotine products to anyone born after 1 January 2015 after having laid before Parliament an independent evaluation report on the health impact of doing so.”

·There are many others, you can read them here.

All in all, the amendments amount to far reaching and oppressive restrictions on vaping and reduce the appeal it will hold for current smokers. The announcement is yet to be made over which amendments will be included in the final Bill sent back to the House.

Meanwhile, around the world…
As the United Kingdom appears to be heading down an ever more restrictive route, on the way to prohibition, experts in criminology and law enforcement told the Australian Senate Inquiry into Vaping that Australia’s harsh approach to vape regulation has created “an extraordinarily large, uncontrollable, and dangerous black market”.
A Deakin University criminologist said that current laws effectively amounted to complete prohibition and a law enforcement consultant responsible for Australia’s Illicit Tobacco Task Force agreed.
The former, Dr James Martin told the Inquiry: “This highly lucrative market has attracted organised crime groups who specialise in the trafficking and distribution of illegal goods. This has led to “major levels of criminal violence and intimidation, with dozens of firebombings and several homicides associated with the sale of illicit vaping and tobacco products over the past 12 months”.

They said that it isn’t possible to combat the illegality because of the size and scale of the criminal behaviour – there isn’t enough money to staff operations.
This point of view is echoed in Briefing on the Prohibition of Vaping and Organised Crime. 12 February 2024 by Mendelsohn et al.
Maybe banning vaping in public spaces isn’t such a great idea? Maybe the Tobacco and Vapes Bill committee should have a second think?