Tobacco and Related Products Regulations 2016 - Motion to Regret

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 8:15 pm on 4th July 2016.

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Photo of Lord Rennard Lord Rennard Liberal Democrat 8:15 pm, 4th July 2016

My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Lansley, is to be greatly congratulated on his tremendous record of achievement in this area, and his advice this evening should be followed very carefully. I must declare my interest as a former director of Action on Smoking and Health. There is a consensus in the debate that using e-cigarettes is much safer than smoking. Together with other clean nicotine products, they have an important role to play in cutting tobacco consumption and improving public health, but I do not agree with the e-cigarette trade body brief which has been circulated. It claims that nicotine is not itself dangerous. As the noble Baroness, Lady Hollins, pointed out so effectively, we have to recognise that nicotine is a known toxin that is poisonous when swallowed and is also addictive.

I do not want to see e-cigarettes subject to more regulation than is necessary, but I do want to see them subject to all the appropriate regulation necessary to support public health objectives. We know that the best chance of success for people seeking to quit smoking is to use smoking cessation services as well as alternative nicotine products in order to help reduce withdrawal symptoms. The regulatory regime required for e-cigarettes and related products must be one that supports their use by smokers trying to quit. It is also right to discourage their use by children and young people who have never smoked. Both these objectives are supported by the regulations being introduced.

I agree with the many noble Lords who have said that we need a public information campaign to reassure smokers that electronic cigarettes are less harmful than normal smoking but, as the Motion in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, points out, there have been major cuts to the media campaigns to persuade smokers to quit. That is very regrettable because such campaigns can be highly cost-effective in supporting quitting. We know that alternative nicotine products for smokers have most public benefit when they are used together with expert behavioural support. That is one reason why we need to make sure that such products can be available on prescription for people seeking help to quit tobacco products. Our approach to e-cigarettes, therefore, must be to treat them not as an exciting new social drug or as a cash cow for e-cigarette companies, many of which are owned by the tobacco industry, but as a potentially important means of improving public health and reducing the toll of death and disease caused by smoking.

The regulations under discussion are not perfect, but they include important steps in tobacco control that must not be lost and must be part of a tobacco control strategy that must be properly resourced to produce real public health dividends.