Associate feature: Can Scotland become smokefree by 2034?
Ross Parker, Director of Corporate Affairs and Communications at Fontem Ventures, on achieving Scotland’s new Tobacco Control Strategy
Ross Parker - Image credit: Fontem
Scotland’s new Tobacco Control Strategy aims to achieve a smokefree nation by 2034, but if that ambitious goal is to be realised, much more needs to be done to embrace the full potential of vaping.
Smoking rates in Scotland dropped from 31% in 2003 to 21% in 2016, with the sharpest decline during that period (2013 to 2014) directly coinciding with a boom in vaping – the UK market grew 86% and 62% respectively. However, this boom also resulted in another phenomenon, a 28% reduction in the use of NHS Scotland stop smoking services, whose use has continued to decline by a further 5% every year since. So, although 52% of the UK’s three million vapers have quit smoking entirely by vaping, we know this sea-change is largely occurring outside of the health services.
As it stands, the Scottish Government should be commended for its commitments to updating NHS Scotland guidance, monitoring vaping science, and providing better advice to stop smoking services. The question remains, though: is that enough to motivate Scotland’s 399,000 smokers to switch as quickly as possible? To date, vaping has been a consumer-driven phenomenon; one which has arguably enjoyed so much success through providing products for smokers to help themselves without having to engage traditional cessation services. Yet, consumer confidence in vaping products is in steep decline. In view of this, the Government should, assisted by industry, be seeking to educate adult smokers directly.
The safety profile of vaping (around 95% less harmful than traditional combustible tobacco) is already widely understood and NHS Scotland, along with 21 other public health organisations, recently concluded: “there is now agreement based on current evidence that vaping is definitely less harmful than smoking tobacco”.
If this is the case, why are we not doing more to hasten smokers’ adoption of vaping? The revised European Union Tobacco Products Directive, implemented in May 2016, regulates vaping devices as consumer products, ensuring minimum safety and quality standards. However, it also places restrictions on certain forms of advertising – rules that are proving increasingly out of sync with public health goals.
The Advertising Standards Authority recently consulted on whether manufacturers should be permitted to make health claims on their products. Today, the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee released a report recommending vaping be clearly differentiated from smoking, and advertising laws relating to the health benefits of vape products relaxed.
Why then, has Scotland reaffirmed its commitment to look at further restrictions on domestic advertising? With some of the highest smoking rates in the UK, it has the most to lose if these draconian vaping policies backfire.
Ross Parker is Director of Corporate Affairs and Communications at Fontem Ventures, the owner of leading e-vapour brand blu
This piece was sponsored by Fontem Ventures. For more information, please visit the Fontem Ventures website.
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