E-cigarettes — [Sir Henry Bellingham in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 1:30 pm on 31st October 2019.

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Photo of Norman Lamb Norman Lamb Chair, Science and Technology Committee (Commons) 1:30 pm, 31st October 2019

I suspect that the right hon. Gentleman knows better than I do, but I note the point that he makes. My view, based on the evidence that the Committee heard, is that the action taken by India is not based on evidence and is likely to result in more people dying of lung cancer. I think that is shameful.

I encourage all right hon. and hon. Members to read the helpful and comprehensive reply that we received from Public Health England on these issues and others, and which we have published so that anyone can delve into the detail. I am reassured that Public Health England is in “close dialogue” with a range of international partners, and I agree with Public Health England when it says:

“It is no exaggeration to say that inflating fears about e-cigarettes could cost lives.”

Incidentally, I have concerns about the attitude at the World Health Organisation, which does not take the same evidence-based approach, as far as I can see, as this country has done. Again, that has implications through the potential loss of life for millions of people across the globe.

It seems to me that people often conflate the fact that we do not have all the long-term evidence on vaping impact with an assertion that that should lead us to conclude that we should not be recommending vaping as an alternative to smoking. Frankly, that is stupid as a public policy approach, because we know that smoking is killing—I think—more than 70,000 people in England every year, and all the evidence so far shows that nothing like that is happening from vaping. According to Public Health England, it is 95% less dangerous than smoking. Therefore, the clear public health advice has to be that vaping is an appropriate way to help people give up smoking. Of course, the best thing of all is not to vape and not to smoke, but if that is not possible for someone, the clear public health advice needs to be that vaping is better than smoking.

Will the Minister set out what contact the Government —she or other Ministers—have had with other countries on international approaches to e-cigarettes? In particular, what are they doing at the World Health Organisation to encourage a more enlightened approach? What assessment have the Government made of the effects of those international approaches on public perception of e-cigarettes in the UK? What steps will the Minister take to ensure that this misinformation on e-cigarettes is challenged?