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The recent move by the government to brand electronic cigarettes as a medical product is ill-conceived and will be hugely damaging not only to the e-cig industry, but also to public health.
No reputable electronic cigarette company in the UK claims that their product helps people to quit smoking. A ‘medicine’ by definition should cure or alleviate the symptoms of a disease, electronic cigarettes do not do this; the nicotine addiction is still present and has not been lessened when a smoker switches to e-cigs. The only difference is the lack of thousands of toxic chemicals found in cigarettes that are extremely harmful to the user.
The arguments put forth in favour of this move centre around the notion that electronic cigarettes are so far unregulated. This is patently untrue in the majority of cases.
All of our liquids are subject to liquid analysis testing to ensure there is no contamination and that the nicotine content of the liquid is exactly what is stated on the label, all ingredients are listed, the bottles are covered with labels warning of the dangers inherent in nicotine, including a tactile warning label for the partially-sighted or blind. All of our devices are subject to every law and statute governing the sale of electronic devices. If we didn’t comply with these laws we would be shut down, because they are already legal requirements.
We answer to Trading Standards, the NMO (National Measurements Office), and the MHRA (Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency). Not to mention the European Commission regulations on chemicals, RoHS (the Restriction of Hazardous Substances directive) and WEEE (the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment directive).
As stated above, electronic cigarettes are NOT an aid to quitting smoking. They are a healthier alternative to smoking regular cigarettes and a way to recreationally take nicotine. They are essentially the same as smoking a regular cigarette but without some of the associated risks.
The only other recreational product available that delivers nicotine in the way an electronic cigarette does is a regular cigarette. Under the new legislation one would logically assume that regular tobacco cigarettes should also be classed as a medical product.
By placing electronic cigarettes into the same category as nicotine patches and gum and other NRTs (Nicotine Replacement Therapies) that have no more than a 5% success rate, and restricting access to them by making it prohibitively difficult and expensive to sell them, the government is all but forcing them out of the public arena, meaning less people will make the switch from, or some will even switch back to, using regular tobacco cigarettes.
This decision could be a huge blow to public health, when electronic cigarettes were already responsible for a marked improvement therein.
The other argument that has been touted is with new regulation in place electronic cigarette companies could ‘no longer’ advertise to non-smokers and those under the age of 18. This is obfuscation of the real issue, and based on falsehoods. No reputable electronic cigarette company in the UK uses their (very limited) marketing budget to advertise to anyone other than existing smokers of legal age. We would all welcome a change in the law to make them legally age-restricted, but claiming that we market to children is spurious and insulting. Especially as currently available NRT products are readily available and even handed out to children as young as 14. There is less chance of a child being sold an electronic cigarette than the same child being given a nicotine patch by a school nurse.
This is a kneejerk reaction to a relatively new product. It hasn’t been thought through sufficiently and it’s entirely the wrong move on the part of the government, who should be encouraging smokers to switch to electronic cigarettes as an ALTERNATIVE, not a CURE, and the way to do this is with non-damaging legislation.