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David Jones MP urges return to evidence-based approach on tobacco harm reduction

May 24, 2024

David Jones (Photo: UK Parliament)

David Jones MP, a member of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Responsible Vaping, called on the UK government to rethink its proposed regulations on vaping products, emphasising the importance of harm reduction in public health policy.

Speaking at a virtual conference held by the Global Tobacco and Nicotine Forum on Wednesday, Jones praised the country’s evidence-based approach to reducing smoking rates, which includes the promotion of vaping as a less harmful alternative. Citing a landmark 2015 report from Public Health England, now the Office for Health Improvement and Disparities, he reiterated that vaping is at least 95 per cent less harmful than smoking.

“Up until now the UK has taken a world leading approach supporting the principle of tobacco harm reduction. The government have allowed vaping to develop on a market basis and that has gradually taken 1.5 million people off smoking altogether,” the conservative MP said.

Despite successes, such as a decline in smoking rates and the introduction of the ‘swap to stop’ strategy providing vape starter kits to smokers, Jones expressed concern that current proposals might undermine these achievements.

The government’s plan to ban disposable vapes, he argued, could hinder smoking cessation efforts, especially for low-income individuals. He cited a study indicating that banning disposables could discourage vaping and even lead to a relapse among those who had used them to quit smoking.

Jones also criticised the proposed ban on flavoured vaping products, asserting that flavors play a crucial role in helping adults quit smoking. He referenced research showing that non-tobacco flavours are preferred by adults across all age groups and are more effective for smoking cessation than tobacco-flavored options.

Furthermore, Jones condemned the proposed generational tobacco ban, which includes heat-not-burn products. He called for more research into these products, arguing that they could be significantly less harmful than traditional cigarettes.

“The UK must return to its evidence-based approach to science and regulation and retain its reputation as a beacon for tobacco harm reduction around the world,” he said.

“The UK government needs to think again and reverse its drive to ban disposable vaping products. It must also take a more considered and evidence-based approach to the regulation of flavours and indeed the whole issue of youth vaping.”

Meanwhile, prime minister Rishi Sunak has confirmed on Friday that his plan to ban smoking for younger generations and bring in tougher restriction on vaping products will not become law after he called a snap election leaving no time to push through one of his flagship policies.

Jones extended his criticism to the World Health Organisation (WHO), accusing it of an outdated stance on harm reduction. He called for greater transparency and accountability in the WHO’s decision-making processes, particularly at the Conference of the Parties (COP) to the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, where policies with far-reaching public health implications are decided.

“Politicians from around the world must ensure that the WHO is always held to account for decisions it makes and that diplomats and civil servants who attend are answerable to the elected representatives who send them to COP to represent our countries,” he said.