On No Smoking Day the Chancellor must recognise a public health revolution that has already delivered a £96bn saving

With National No Smoking Day coinciding with Budget Day, the Chancellor is urged to recognise the role of vaping in improving public health and saving billions of pounds for the NHS.

The Chancellor will deliver his first budget on 8 March which is also National No Smoking Day, a day of public health campaigning designed to spur smokers into action to stop or reduce their smoking.

We know that the Chancellor will be looking to impose a rise in tobacco excise; but it is vital that he ignores calls from the EU to treat vaping products in the same way. Evidence from other European Countries demonstrates that imposing excise duties on vaping products puts at risk a potentially seismic public health opportunity that is already saving the NHS billions.

The public have displayed a huge vote of confidence in vaping; figures show that over 2.8million people have now embraced vaping.[1] Public Health England is clear that vaping is at least 95% less harmful than smoking, and this view is now being endorsed by the wider UK public health community. It is self-evident that adopting a harm reduction approach, the promotion of safer alternatives to those who would otherwise smoke, can bring enormous public health benefits.

Smoking levels are being drastically reduced by the availability of hugely popular vaping alternatives. The NHS values each person who quits smoking as saving £74,000[2]; even simple arithmetic shows that the smokers who have switched to vaping, and no longer smoke, already represent a saving of more than £96bn.[3]

It would make no sense for the Chancellor to ignore these benefits and elect instead to follow the example of European Commission; the architects of the ill designed vaping regulations[4] who to date have ignored the UK’s harm-reduction approach and are instead seemingly prioritising excise measures on vaping products.

Mark Pawsey MP, Chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on e-cigarettes, said “Our cross-party group has taken evidence from many representatives of the public health and research community, as well as from vapers and the vaping industry itself. What is clear is that the key driver in the popularity of e-cigarettes is the desire from smokers to switch to a much less harmful alternative. The UK is a leader in harm-reduction policy, and it is important that we continue to be. I am sure the Chancellor will be led by the evidence, and the evidence suggests that punitive taxation on vaping products discourages their uptake. Given the cost savings they potentially represent to the health service; punitive measures would surely be a backward step.”

Charles Hamshaw-Thomas, UK Vaping Industry Association added, “In this week’s Budget it is essential that the Chancellor recognises the very real public health opportunity and savings for the nation’s coffers that vaping products represent.

“With the NHS valuing a successful ‘smoking quit’ at £74,000, the almost half of Britain’s 2.8m vapers who no longer smoke already represent a saving of £96bn. With there still being approximately 9 million smokers in the UK just imagine the savings if we get more of them to switch? They say Mr Hammond has an eye for detail, so surely he can see how those numbers stack up, particularly while occupying the national platform he has on No Smoking Day.”

[1] Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology, August 2016, page 2 http://researchbriefings.parliament.uk/ResearchBriefing/Summary/POST-PN-0533

[2] Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology, January 2014, http:// researchbriefings.files.parliament.uk/documents/POST-PN-455/POST-PN-455.pdf

[3] Of the 2.8 million adults using vaping products, 1.3 million are ex-smokers. See ASH Fact Sheet on the use of electronic cigarettes (vapourisers) among adults in Great Britain, May 2016, http://ash.org.uk/information-and-resources/fact-sheets/use-of-electronic-cigarettes-vapourisers-among-adults-in-great-britain/

[4] Tobacco Products Directive, Article 20, http://ec.europa.eu/health//sites/health/files/tobacco/docs/dir_201440_en.pdf

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