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Tobacco control review recommends vaping as substitute for smoking

June 9, 2022

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A British government commissioned review into tobacco controls on Thursday recommended offering vaping as a substitute for smoking, alongside accurate information on the benefits of switching, including to healthcare professionals.

The independent review, led by Dr Javed Khan, former chief executive of children’s charity Barnardo’s, also recommended the legal age of sale for tobacco products in England be raised by one year every year until eventually no one can buy such products.

“The government must embrace the promotion of vaping as an effective tool to help people to quit smoking tobacco. We know vapes are not a ‘silver bullet’ nor are they totally risk-free, but the alternative is far worse,” the report states.

The review, ordered by Health Secretary Sajid Javid in February, recommended 15 interventions, including four ‘critical recommendations’ to help the government meet its target to be ‘smokefree’ by 2030.

Khan warns that without further action England will miss those smoke free targets by at least seven years and that the government must implement four ‘critical recommendations’.

Besides the above two, the other ‘critical recommendations’ include urgently investing £125 million per year in a comprehensive smokefree 2030 programme with a ‘polluter pays’ levy being one of the funding options and the NHS to prioritise further action to stop people from smoking, by providing support and treatment across all of its services, including primary care.

Other recommendations include introducing a tobacco license for retailers to limit the availability of tobacco across the country, substantially raising the cost of duties (more than 30%) across all tobacco products and abolishing all duty free entry of tobacco products.

The review also recommends the government to accelerate the path to prescribed vapes and provide free Swap to Stop packs in deprived communities. At the same time, it asks the government to do “everything they possibly can to prevent children and young people from vaping, including by banning child friendly packaging and descriptions.”

“[The proposals] are not simply a plan for this government, but successive governments too. As we make progress, we will need to refine our proposals, adjusting spend to match changing needs, responding to the evolving challenges and opportunities,” Khan wrote in the report. “So, I also propose the government introduces progress checkpoints in 2026, 2030 and 2035.”

Javid said the government will consider the recommendations and publish its own plan in due course.

“The Independent Review will help to inform our upcoming White Paper on Health Disparities, which we plan to publish this summer. To complement this, the Department will also be publishing a new Tobacco Control Plan in due course,” Javid told parliament in a written statement.

Jefferies analysts published a note ahead of the announcement saying that if aggressive control measure were implemented, it would create greater risks for tobacco companies more focused on ‘combustible’ tobacco products, naming Imperial Brands and Japan Tobacco. 

Conversely Jefferies said it could create opportunities for those like British American Tobacco and Philip Morris, which it said had more reliance on sales from reduced risk products, such as vapes.