The politics of vaping
The UKVIA represents the whole vaping sector regardless of size in Westminster, the Welsh Assembly and the Scottish Parliament. We focus on a range of issues including:
• ensuring proportionate and fair regulation,
• keeping abreast of what may affect the industry in the futur
• demonstrating the vaping industry as highly responsible and professional
• engaging with parliamentarians
• monitoring the effectiveness of current regulations
• holding the Government to account with its commitment to promoting the positive benefits of vape products.
The UKVIA represents the interests of the whole sector through engagement with decision takers and policy makers in Westminster and Whitehall as well as with the public health community including the NHS.
Having grown significantly in popularity the policy climate for vaping products is evolving rapidly.
During that time the sector has gone from little/no regulation to a highly restrictive and burdensome regime following the European Tobacco Product Directive (TPD), which was enshrined in UK law as the Tobacco and Related Products Regulations 2016 (TRPR). This has created advertising bans, product restrictions and a slowdown in product innovation. These are due to be reviewed by May 2021.
Policymakers are now waking up to consequences of this kneejerk regulation. More and more evidence points toward the health benefits of vaping compared to smoking, including in the recent Public Health England Report – Vaping in England and the government committed in 2017 to review vaping related regulation and promote the public health benefits of vaping more proactively. Thanks to the hard work of our members, we are ensuring the UK is a standard bearer for the vaping sector and continues to make a strong case for vaping in the face of bans on vaping in other countries like India and Australia and from flavour bans such as the one recently imposed in the Netherlands.
The UKVIA has been working hard to advocate the potential public health impact of vaping to government, MPs, peers and public health bodies.
Over the last year the UKVIA appeared as a witness before the Science and Technology Select Committee in the House of Commons, as part of the inquiry into e-cigarettes. You can see the video of our evidence here. You can also see the UKVIA’s written evidence here.
We have also provided industry submissions to key consultations, including:
- Advocating the removal of advertising restrictions as part of the Advertising Standards Authority 2017 consultation.
- In the government’s Industrial Strategy consultation, the UKVIA made a compelling case for the opportunities that vaping represents in the UK for health, business and the wider economy.
- We responded to the National Institute for Clinical Excellence’s consultation to advocate that medical practitioners should recommend vaping for smokers looking to quit.
We have directly engaged the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC), Department for Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), the former Department for Exiting the European Union (DexEU), as well as executive agencies including Public Health England (PHE) and the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), on the importance of promoting vaping products to smokers and key industry challenges.
We continue to expand the sector’s wider stakeholder engagement, by liaising with and briefing key bodies and organisations, including the Local Government Association, Cancer Research UK, Chartered Institute of Environmental Health, Chartered Institute of Trading Standards, and many more.
Recently, the UKVIA’s focus has been on our response to the Covid-19 crisis. Our first priority has been to keep our members and customers safe and adhere to the Government guidance. Secondly, we have supported our members through this uncertain time and have worked hard to ensure that vape shops could open again as soon as possible following the closure of non-essential retail when the country went into lockdown. We engaged with the Department of Health & Social Care; Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy; Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government; Cabinet Office; and Number 10 on this issue and a number of supportive MPs were also contacted and wrote in support of our position.
We were also one of only around 200 organisations, representing a broad mix of sectors, who were invited to respond to the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy consultation on Safer Working Guidance for when restrictions were lifted.
Whilst we are delighted to see our member’s stores now reopen, our industry, like many others, will need support going forward. That is why we are engaging with Government on what steps it can take to support our industry and we have written to the Chancellor to ask that he looks again at the rate of VAT that is charged on vaping products.
We are currently developing guidance for packaging, labelling and flavour names as well as discussing other issues such as the Tobacco and Related Products Regulations review and engaging with the Government’s Regulatory Policy Committee on its review of regulations relating to tobacco products.
Looking to the future the UKVIA our new public affairs strategy is focussed on a number of clear objectives including:
- demonstrating the responsibility of the sector;
- ensuring fair and proportionate legislation and regulation;
- highlighting the industry’s critical role both economically and socially
- challenging the misinformation on vaping which Public Health England has acknowledged has unfairly deterred smokers from switching to vaping
- gaining a groundswell of support and positive action from the public health community to realise the full potential of vaping as a far safer alternative to smoking.
The UKVIA fully supports responsible regulation that is in the best interests of consumers. However, the current regulations follow the EU’s approach of putting vaping products in the same bracket as tobacco (Article 20 of the Tobacco Products Directive [TPD]). The Government’s 2017 Tobacco Control Plan promised a review of Article 20 to identify areas for sensible deregulation. It is important that this review is carried out urgently and with industry involvement. In particular, the UKVIA calls for the review to consider the following:
- Advertising – Article 20 of the TPD has created a huge amount of confusion around advertising vaping products; it prohibits most vaping products being advertised or promoted on television, radio, internet adverts and printed publications, including newspapers and magazines akin to tobacco products. However, there are limited or no restrictions placed on some related products, while others are able to advertise in cinemas or on the side of buses. These restrictions severely curtail the ability of the industry to communicate the public health potential of vaping to smokers and existing vapers, and create a confusing climate for both consumers and the industry. Furthermore, these types of tobacco-style advertising and marketing restrictions prevent the vaping industry actively encouraging smokers to switch to vaping.
- Product restrictions – The packaging restrictions on vaping products are more stringent than those for many hazardous products, including bleach. Article 20 imposes arbitrary, non-evidence based restrictions on vaping products in terms of nicotine strengths, bottle sizes and product information. Conversely, e-liquids containing no-nicotine are not subject to any specific regulation whatsoever – despite the fact they are being intentionally sold to be mixed with nicotine. The UKVIA supports the requirement for consumer warnings to be included on packaging where necessary to inform consumers of both risks and benefits, indeed we strongly believe that no-nicotine containing e-liquids should be subject to the same testing and standards as other e-liquids (as is being done in the Netherlands). The nicotine strength restrictions are not based on what works for encouraging smokers to switch. The bottle size restrictions have simply added costs to the consumer and industry without any practical effect.
- Flavours – E-liquid flavours are a core part of the appeal of vaping products to smokers seeking to switch. Several countries around the world have restricted, or seek to restrict, certain flavours. The UKVIA is clear that all steps must be taken to ensure products are not marketed towards under-18s or non-smokers, but it is vital that product choice is maintained.
The UK outside the EU
Vaping is an outward-looking, growth-focused industry and is well placed to capitalise on the huge potential of the new global trading environment that leaving the EU presents to the UK. Aside from the opportunities to reform Article 20 of the TPD, there is an important business case to be made for maintaining the UK’s position as a global centre of leadership in the vaping industry.
The UK is seen as a standard-bearer in the vaping sector and it is in this environment that the uptake and innovation of vaping products has flourished. It is crucial that the future customs and excise arrangements allow the free trade of vaping products, and do not undermine the UK’s status as a world leading innovator in safe, quality products. In light of the emerging consensus around the role of vaping products in tobacco harm reduction, the government should endeavour to maintain their affordability – which would be undermined by an excise tax as it would likely force manufacturers to raise product prices and deter more smokers from switching to vaping, as well as create a black market in unregulated, untaxed products.
All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Vaping
The independent cross-party group of members of the House of Commons and the House of Lords was set up to debate and explore the role of vaping in smoking cessation and vaping regulation more broadly. Amongst other topics, it has looked at:
- Vaping in public places;
- The Department of Health’s approach to vaping regulation following the Tobacco Control Plan;
- Vaping and the tobacco industry.
Meetings are often arranged with Parliamentarians, the public health community, Trading Standards and consumers to focus on public health attitudes to vaping and the vaping regulatory landscape.
The APPG has launched the following reports:
- State of the Vaping Nation: includes a number of priority recommendations to the Government, detailed reports of evidence sessions, contributions from key stakeholders and an examination of public attitudes to vaping. Read the report here.
- Vaping in workplaces and public places (2018): includes a review of vaping policies in workplaces and public locations, as well as evidence-based recommendations on vaping in public to stakeholders ranging from employers, public health bodies and vapers themselves. Read the report here.
The APPG is currently undertaking a review of its future direction.
Establishing a Primary Authority Partnership
In 2029 the UKVIA established a Primary Authority Partnership with Surrey and Buckinghamshire in July 2019 which means that UKVIA members can benefit from guaranteed, expert advice on regulatory issues, as well as robust support in compliance.