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 Earl Cathcart Earl Cathcart Conservative 8:15 pm, 4th July 2016

My Lords, I find these regulations bizarre as far as vaping goes. They defy both logic and the evidence. Brussels believes that vaping could provide a gateway to smoking and that these tough new laws are necessary to protect non-smokers, particularly children, from using e-cigarettes. The evidence does not support that view. The Office for National Statistics has stated:

“E-cigarettes are almost exclusively used by smokers and ex-smokers. Almost none of those who had never smoked cigarettes were e-cigarette users”.

Cancer Research UK found that smokers who vape are 60% more likely to quit than those who use willpower or over-the-counter nicotine replacement products. Its statistics demonstrate that vaping is used almost entirely—99%—by current and former smokers, more than 60% of whom say that the sole reason for vaping is to stop using traditional tobacco. Interestingly, only 0.2% of non-smokers aged under 18 have tried vaping and continued use is negligible. So the evidence does not support Brussels’ reasons for these regulations.

Public Health England has stated:

“There is a need to publicise the current best estimate that using EC is around 95% safer than smoking”.

Professor John Britton, of the Royal College of Physicians, says:

“If all the smokers in Britain stopped smoking cigarettes and started smoking e-cigarettes we would save five million deaths in people who are alive today. It’s a massive potential public health prize”.

Noble Lords would think that Brussels would want to encourage vaping but no, that would be too logical. Brussels is banning advertising of e-cigarettes, but this is cack-handed for two reasons. First, if we can advertise nicotine patches, why not e-cigarettes, which are just another way in which to absorb nicotine into the body? As the noble Baroness, Lady Hollins, said, advertising can be done on buses—I did not know that—so why cannot it be done in newspapers, on television and so on? Secondly, given that e-cigarettes are 95% less harmful than tobacco, how are tobacco smokers to find out about vaping and thus improve their health by giving up tobacco? Brussels wants e-cigarettes to carry health warnings but what on earth will they say? Perhaps I may suggest: “If you smoke tobacco, try vaping as it is 95% less risky than tobacco”, but I do not think that that is what Brussels has in mind.

These regulations will also restrict the nicotine strengths of e-cigarettes to 2%. It is this proposal that really irritates me. I started smoking before I was a teenager and built up to 50 cigarettes a day. I tried every trick in the book to kick the habit but nothing seemed to work, as the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, found. I knew that smoking would kill me and that I would be gathered by the grim reaper before time, but I just could not stop. I could not kick the habit. Then, two summers ago, a taxi driver suggested that I try e-cigarettes. They had worked for him but he insisted that I use the strongest nicotine strength available because if I did not do so, I would not get the necessary nicotine hit and I would be back on fags in no time. I took his advice about using the strongest nicotine—2.4%—and I have not looked back. I have not had a puff of tobacco since two summers ago. E-cigarettes work and help people to stop smoking.

I still use the 2.4% strength, and I find that vaping gives me between 75% and 80% of the satisfaction that tobacco smoking did, but I can live with that. What worries me is that when I run out of my supply of 2.4% nicotine and have to reduce to 2% nicotine, as per these regulations, I will not receive the necessary nicotine hit and I might return to tobacco. There are hundreds of thousands of vapers like me who use nicotine strengths above 2% and, like me, they rely on that higher strength to prevent them returning to tobacco. Also, the higher nicotine strengths are critical in helping smokers with the initial transition from tobacco to vaping. Imposing a limit of 2% would mean that many vapers might return to using tobacco or might buy stronger nicotine illegally on the black market.

These regulations directly affect me, my health and my well-being. I could not understand why Brussels wanted to penalise the vaping industry and vaping users but after hearing my noble friend Lord Callanan’s contribution on the pharmaceutical and tobacco industry having got at Brussels, all is now clear. I am sorry that we are considering only a regret Motion. If I could vote against these regulations, I would.