The proposed e-smoking ban

I've just read this article by Victoria Winckler on the Bevan Foundation blog about the Welsh Government's proposed ban on smoking e-cigarettes in public places.


I agree with what she says and think it's well worth taking five minutes to read.

The real battle is to help people quit smoking tobacco, and e-cigarettes are more likely to be part of the solution than part of the problem.

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Anonymous said...

As I understand it, smoking in public places was banned primarily because of the harm done to others by passive smoking. There's no evidence that e-cigarettes do any harm at all.

LeighRichards said...

i work with adults with all kinds of addiction issues - tobacco smoking often being one of them. from my experience at least there's no doubt that e cigarettes help people to reduce their consumption of tobacco considerably.

the welsh labour government's proposed ban on smoking e cigarettes in public places makes no sense whatsoever.

Welsh not British said...

I don't understand what the fuss is. People who use e-cigs will surely have smoked so will be used to going outside or not smoking in public areas. E-cigs are meant to be an alternative to smoking not an alternative to going outside.

MH said...

I can see the point you're making, Stu. However if smoking e-cigarettes is banned in public places it, in effect, is a statement that there is no difference between them and smoking tobacco. The point, surely is that there is a difference – namely that tobacco is known to be dangerous, but that e-cigarettes are not known to be dangerous.

The point of the ban on tobacco was to protect others from the dangers of tobacco smoke, so it wouldn't be right to impose exactly the same ban on something that, in all likelihood, poses no dangers to others.

As I see it, the situation on e-cigarettes should be the same as that on tobacco cigarettes before the ban. Nobody is saying that people should be allowed to e-smoke wherever they like. Owners and managers of premises should be free to ban e-smoking either entirely or in certain areas, but there would not be a blanket ban.

Anonymous said...

I'm not so sure about your argument here MH. My main concern with allowing e-cigarettes to be publically accepted is the social learning element as far as children and young people are concerned.

Isn't it the case that tobacco companies are actually behind these new e-cigarette outlets since they are looking to create a new market for their wares by glamourizing smoking once again( think multi-coloured casings and multi-flavoured e-cigarettes even)? Who do you think these products are actually aimed at? I would argue that this market is mainly young people in the hope they can then be weaned on to the real thing as a natural progression. However you dress it up, e-cigarettes still contain nicotine which surprise, surprise, creates a need for more nicotine...

Locally, we have an initative in Llanfairpwll where local schoolchildren have come up with this idea that Llanfairpwll should be a smoke-free village- the first in Europe. A survey of businesses in the village showed that over 95% of people thought it was a good idea, and although it is a voluntary scheme, the hope is that people will support their local schoolchildren, who will act as ambassadors for the project.

Involving children in this way sends a really positive message about the need to eliminate smoking in public life and how children and young people can be actively involved in promoting this idea. Allowing e-cigarettes to get a foothold publically, and re-establishing the practice of smoking goes against the whole spirit of this campaign.

E-cigarettes may be a way for some existing smokers to cut down on their smoking habit, but I think there is a real danger that they could also be creating a whole new market of smokers for the future.

Aled GJ

MH said...

For me, it is a question of identifying what the problem is, Aled. I don't see nicotine as a particular problem. In itself, nicotine seems to be a relatively harmless social drug. So even though it might be addictive, it won't do all that much harm to those who use it ... and it certainly won't do any harm to anyone else, only to those who use it.

The problem with smoking tobacco is not the nicotine, but the smoke. In other words it is the "delivery system" that does the damage, not what it is delivering. I don't see that we, as a society, should prohibit people from using nicotine any more than we should prohibit people from using alcohol or caffeine. Like any drug, it will have dangers, but not the level of danger that would require us as a society to seek to stamp it out.

You say that the tobacco companies are largely behind e-cigarettes, and that might well be true. But even if it is true, is it a problem? It would depend on what the "end game" is. You suggest that the end game is to eventually get people to smoke "the real thing", but I would question that. If e-cigarettes are indeed a safe way of delivering nicotine (and I realize that there are different types and flavours available, and not all of them contain nicotine; although most do) then I don't see e-smoking as any more of a problem than drinking alcohol or coffee. In other words, if e-smoking is a thing that people do as a pleasurable thing in itself, there should be public places where people can e-smoke if they want to, just as they can indulge their taste for alcohol and caffeine in similar public places like pubs, coffee shops and restaurants.

And if that does produce a whole new market, then would it be such a bad thing for tobacco companies to move into? Would it be any different from typewriter manufacturers finding a new market by manufacturing computers instead ... or car manufacturers moving from petrol to electric motors ... or power generators moving from fossil fuels to renewables?

Anonymous said...

We're quite early in the life cycle of e-cigs as a market and as a product. A ban may become necessary at a later date but it's way too early to do that. We don't know yet whether they wil create "more smokers of the real thing", but they might not, so no need for a ban yet.

Welsh not British said...

MH said...

"I can see the point you're making, Stu. However if smoking e-cigarettes is banned in public places it, in effect, is a statement that there is no difference between them and smoking tobacco. The point, surely is that there is a difference – namely that tobacco is known to be dangerous, but that e-cigarettes are not known to be dangerous."

As has been touched on above (by Aled), to a child there is no difference between a cigarette and an e-cig. And we should be worried that instead of children growing up knowing how bad for you smoking is that there is now a 'healthy' alternative to smoking, they've even given it a cool sounding name, 'vaping'.

It'd be interesting to know if the big companies are behind these and if their relatively recent surge in popularity has coincided with the bans, first on advertising and in public areas. E-cigs are exempt from both these bans.

MH said...

I've found a short article on the Royal College of Physicians' website which I think is worth reading:

What you need to know about electronic cigarettes

One of the things it touches on is how e-cigarettes might be seen, particularly by children:

Much concern has been expressed that use of e-cigarettes in public, especially in places where tobacco smoking is prohibited, undermines the denormalisation of smoking achieved in recent years and hence promotes smoking. Concerns about renormalisation through use in places where smoking is prohibited assume that e-cigarettes and tobacco cigarettes look so similar that non-smokers, and particularly children, cannot tell the difference, which is unlikely. E-cigarettes – especially later generation products – clearly look different, and the odourless vapour that they produce is quite different from tobacco smoke.

The parallel I might use is that it would be even harder, in fact probably impossible, to tell the difference between somone sipping a glass of water and someone sipping a glass of neat vodka.


However I would say that I think things do need to be done to regualate the sale and advertising of e-cigarettes. They are now very freely available and very cheap. I've actually seen them for sale in pound shops. These paragraphs from the close of the article are relevant:

E-cigarettes are marketed in the UK as consumer products, and are thus exempt from medicines and tobacco regulations. Suppliers have no obligation to provide data for the performance of the products they sell, and few do. In 2013 the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency announced their intention to regulate e-cigarettes as medicines from 2016, using a streamlined light touch approach to apply medicines standards of purity and delivery, and prescreen advertising to prevent marketing abuse.

In a parallel development, under the revised European Union Tobacco Products Directive, unlicensed e-cigarettes will become subject to tobacco regulation, which prohibits advertising, requires a health warning to be printed on packs, and will impose as yet unspecified purity standards from 2017. Although medicines licensing increases manufacturing costs, licensed products in the UK qualify for 5% rather than 20% sales tax, will be available on prescription through health services as well as on general sale, and can be advertised as cessation or harm reduction products. It is therefore likely that while some suppliers will opt for regulation as a tobacco product, others will opt for medicines regulation. In either case, these forms of regulation will resolve many of the concerns outlined above.

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