Vaping - Question

– in the House of Lords at 2:45 pm on 13th November 2018.

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Photo of Lord Vaux of Harrowden Lord Vaux of Harrowden Crossbench 2:45 pm, 13th November 2018

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they have any plans to restrict or ban the advertising or sale of flavoured nicotine vaping fluids.

Photo of Lord Vaux of Harrowden Lord Vaux of Harrowden Crossbench

I beg leave to ask the Question standing in my name on the Order Paper. In doing so, I declare that I hold shares in British American Tobacco, which are below the threshold for registration.

Photo of Lord O'Shaughnessy Lord O'Shaughnessy The Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Health and Social Care

My Lords, strong controls are already in place. Vaping fluids containing nicotine are regulated through the Tobacco and Related Products Regulations 2016, which include measures to restrict their use by children. The nicotine inhaling products regulations 2015 make it illegal to sell such liquids to anyone under the age of 18. The Advertising Standards Authority includes a provision in its codes to ensure that advertisers do not target or feature children.

Photo of Lord Vaux of Harrowden Lord Vaux of Harrowden Crossbench

I thank the Minister for his Answer. However, the regulations do not seem to be working. Flavours include bubble gum, sherbet lemon, unicorn blood and strawberry delight, and come in colourful packaging with cartoon characters and pictures of sweets, for use with high-tech shiny gadgets. It would be hard to design something that was more appealing to children. According to recent tests, four in 10 retailers are willing to sell without age restrictions. In the US, the FDA says that underage use has surged recently and reached epidemic proportions. Does the Minister agree with the commissioner of the FDA, who said:

“I believe certain flavors are one of the principal drivers of the youth appeal of these products”?

Will he please look again at the rules and how they are enforced, just as the US is now doing aggressively, before we too have an epidemic of childhood nicotine addiction?

Photo of Lord O'Shaughnessy Lord O'Shaughnessy The Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Health and Social Care

The FDA has certainly said that it is facing an epidemic of childhood use, but the numbers are quite stark in their difference. In America, many more young people use e-cigarettes compared to in this country, where only 2% of 11 to 18 year-olds are using once a week. Generally, those are young people who smoke already—around 7% of 15 year-olds smoke. America did not restrict tank sizes until recently, but we did; it did not restrict bottle sizes, but we did; it did not ban advertising, but we did; and it does not have restrictions on nicotine, but we do. We have a very sensible system. I am not complacent about the need to make sure that young people do not use, which we are not seeing yet, and there are severe restrictions and punishments for any retailer who sells such products to children.

Photo of Lord Hunt of Kings Heath Lord Hunt of Kings Heath Labour

My Lords, is it not clear from the evidence that, while we have to be very careful about use by young people, this is the most successful tobacco prevention or stopping measure we have ever had? It is important that we keep a measure of balance in our approach to this.

Photo of Lord O'Shaughnessy Lord O'Shaughnessy The Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Health and Social Care

I completely agree with the noble Lord, and I think that we have the right balance: 57,000 people a year quit smoking through e-cigarette use and that is just about the most important thing you can do to improve your health.

Photo of Lord Brabazon of Tara Lord Brabazon of Tara Deputy Speaker (Lords)

Is my noble friend aware that the majority of people who use e-cigarettes—an enormous majority—are those, like myself, who have given up smoking cigarettes, and those who are trying to give up smoking cigarettes? All health professionals now recognise that e-cigarettes are the way forward and the best way to give up smoking. To introduce a ban on the sale of vaping liquids would be a complete catastrophe. Not only would people go back to smoking but those who wanted to give up would have no incentive to do so.

Photo of Lord O'Shaughnessy Lord O'Shaughnessy The Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Health and Social Care

I completely agree with my noble friend. Interestingly, ONS data shows that 48% of people said that the main reason for using an e-cigarette was as an aid to stop smoking, and just 1.5% cited the range of flavours available as their main reason.

Photo of Baroness Jolly Baroness Jolly Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (Health)

My Lords, the European tobacco products directive bans all broadcast media in the EU from advertising e-cigarettes. Will the Minister tell the House what the Government’s post-Brexit plans are?

Photo of Lord O'Shaughnessy Lord O'Shaughnessy The Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Health and Social Care

Our post-Brexit plans are the same as our pre-Brexit plans—to have a sensible policy which provides e-cigarettes to stop smoking and to make sure that they are not abused by people who should not be using them.

Photo of Baroness Thornton Baroness Thornton Shadow Spokesperson (Health)

The noble Lord, Lord Vaux, asked a legitimate Question about the flavoured nicotine substitutes that are on sale. If the Minister believes that we might see the emergence of vape flavours such as unicorn milk and rocket popsicles—which can only be designed to appeal to young people—can he confirm that the Government have plans for dealing with that?

Photo of Lord O'Shaughnessy Lord O'Shaughnessy The Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Health and Social Care

I am not sure who unicorn milk would appeal to—maybe my five year-old, but she is not smoking yet. Seriously, the point here is about advertising. It is quite right that they cannot be advertised to promote them but they can be advertised for public health reasons. They are incredibly effective at stopping people smoking. As I have said, we are not seeing the kind of abuse and the epidemic of youth usage that we have seen in the States, but we are alert to any signs that that may be the case.

Photo of The Bishop of Chelmsford The Bishop of Chelmsford Bishop

My Lords, the Minister’s joke makes the point. Does he agree that such flavours appeal to children and one needs to be careful about that?

Photo of Lord O'Shaughnessy Lord O'Shaughnessy The Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Health and Social Care

The right reverend Prelate is right. However, as I say, we do not see evidence of what is going on in the States happening in this country. The reason for that is that we have many more restrictions, and the US is now playing catch-up by introducing them.

Photo of Lord Foulkes of Cumnock Lord Foulkes of Cumnock Labour

My Lords, is the Minister aware that one of the consequences of the welcome ban on smoking in public places is that when you go out of a hospital or an airport you face a curtain of smoke and a carpet of fag ends? Will the noble Lord, as Health Minister, with his colleagues, do something about ensuring that that does not take place and that there are secluded places for people to smoke where the rest of us do not have to go?

Photo of Lord O'Shaughnessy Lord O'Shaughnessy The Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Health and Social Care

I agree with the noble Lord from personal experience. Organisations are encouraged to make sure that there are outside places for people to smoke which are in discreet areas and do not interrupt others.

Photo of Earl Cathcart Earl Cathcart Conservative

My Lords, vaping has been a phenomenal success in helping millions of people like myself to stop smoking or to cut down. What plans does the Minister’s department has after Brexit to remove the restrictions imposed by the EU’s tobacco products directive?

Photo of Lord O'Shaughnessy Lord O'Shaughnessy The Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Health and Social Care

I am sorry to disappoint my noble friend but at this point we do not have any specific plans. We have a sensible policy which allows the promotion of e-cigarettes to help people stop smoking but does not encourage people to take them up in the first place, which may lead to smoking. We have struck the right balance at the moment.