Vaping Advocates Facing A Hard Task

People advocating for tobacco harm reduction products such as ecigs are facing a tough 2023 as vested interests and people ideologically opposed to any nicotine use push for further restrictions. From Europe to Central America and Australia, the battle to make politicians understand how well vaping has worked in the United Kingdom continues.

Last week, Health Minister Orazio Schillaci announced that Italy would be taking steps to enforce a ban on vaping indoors.

Previously, Italy attacked vapes by placing a huge tax on eliquid which went very badly. The country had fewer vapers than Germany, France, and the UK, but the number was reduced by 90% almost overnight. The knock-on effect of this was that shops closed, staff were made unemployed, and most vapers returned to smoking.

It saw the error it had made and a few years later the Italian government reversed the measure. It seemed that the nation had turned the corner and was emulating the British approach – but the recent announcement has knocked consumer organisations for six.

It says it wants to achieve a ‘tobacco-free generation’, but by making vaping less appealing it is hard to see how they will achieve this.

Belgium has gone in hard on electronic cigarettes too, now extending the approach to include tobacco-free nicotine pouches. The Belgian Health Minister said: “These nicotine pouches, like electronic cigarettes and vaping, can be a steppingstone to smoking at an early age.”

The problem here is that the UK Government has stated that there is no evidence to support claims that vaping acts as a gateway to smoking – and that all the evidence shows it works as a gateway to help people escape from tobacco.

The authorities in Jakarta are now considering a complete ban on the import, sale, possession, and use of vapes. This style of complete ban was announced in Mexico last week which is terrible news for Mexican smokers.

Nearby, Australia is looking to double down on its failed approach. Currently, smokers can only access ecigs and eliquids if they apply to a GP for a prescription, but the Australian Medical Association has made most GPs too afraid to do it. While the UK has embraced vaping and seen smoking rates plummet to record lows, Australia’s smoking rate has flatlined. Australian harm reduction expert Dr Colin Mendelsohn called his country’s approach “an embarrassing failure”.

The Australian Alcohol and other Drugs Council recently told the Aussie government that the only thing their current approach has achieved is to create a booming black market in illicit vapes – one where it has absolutely no control over product quality or safety. The UK has strict regulation to ensure that vapes sold here meet all the safety requirements and don’t contain bad chemicals.

Even here at home, advocates can’t rest on their laurels as Scotland recently announced that it plans on investigating whether to ban disposable vapes. Disposables have become very popular with quitting smokers due to their ease of use and convenience.

2023 is setting up to be a busy year for those fighting on behalf of nicotine users.