The Backbench Business Committee held a debate on the 9th March 2023 on the topic of smoking and vaping – due to it being a day after the UK No Smoking Day.
You can read the full transcript on the Hansard Website or you can watch it here on ParliamentLive.TV .
The debate was led by Bob Blackman MP who is the Conservative MP for Harrow East who also led the Smokefree 2023 Debate back in November. He is very pro-vaping so this debate had a lot of content for us vape fans!
🚭 At 1.30pm, @BobBlackman is leading a debate on National No Smoking Day.
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Watch live on Parliament TV ⤵️https://t.co/QJzI7L85pc pic.twitter.com/jJya0v77Zi
— Backbench Business Committee (@CommonsBBCom) March 9, 2023
The debate began with Bob Blackman speaking about National No Smoking Day and how this year the topic was the damage to the brain caused by smoking which is not a widely known fact.
He then pointed out how there are still 6.6 million people who are regular smokers in the UK and how more needs to be done to decrease this figure…
“It is therefore crucial that we reverse the withdrawal of Government funding for the no smoking public awareness campaign, which effectively highlighted the dangers associated with smoking and the support that is available to help people quit.”
He also covered more statistics related to smoking and the illnesses and costs to the economy caused by the habit.
Bob continued by praising vaping (woohoo!)…
“From my perspective, I would encourage anyone who smokes and who wants to give up to try vaping. If vaping is considered by that individual to be a safer alternative, I would encourage them to try it. However, I am one of those people who say that we have to be very careful about vaping, because we do not know the long-term effects. It is certainly healthier to choose vaping as a way to give up smoking. However, I am concerned about the number of young people who are taking up vaping directly, and who may then go on to smoke, or to other ways of getting nicotine into their system. That is a really serious problem for the long term that the Government have to address.”
Then the topic of the Smokefree 2030 goal was discussed and how the Cancer Research UK Report On Smokefree 2030 progress recently predicted the UK will not achieve this target until at least 2039 if the current conditions continue.
The tobacco control plan which was promised in 2021 still has not been realised and none of the recommendations of the 2022 Khan Independent Review of Tobacco Control have been put into action either. He asked for a date of when this will happen.
As a Budget is on the cards in March Bob highlighted how there have been severe funding restrictions to Stop Smoking services and only 67% of local authorities provided access to a specialist service in 2022.
Also the spend on public education campaigns has dropped from a huge £23M (2008-2009) to a mere 2.2M in 2018-2020. Funding for the No Smoking Day public awareness was scrapped completely.
Mary Glindon is the Labour MP for North Tyneside. Plus she is a member of the APPG (All Party Parliamentary Group) for vaping.
She declared she was not a smoker but was brought up in a household of smokers and her late husband who had been a heavy smoker since the age of 9 turned to vaping later on in life and finally quit smoking.
Quoting from the Khan Review…
“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”
She quoted other health experts on how vaping is safer than smoking…
“Dr Debbie Robson, a senior lecturer in tobacco harm reduction at King’s Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience has said:
“The levels of exposure to cancer causing and other toxicants are drastically lower in people who vape compared with those who smoke.”
And Professor Ann McNeil, a professor of tobacco addiction at the institute, has said:
“Smoking is uniquely deadly and will kill one in two regular sustained smokers, yet around two-thirds of adult smokers, who would really benefit from switching to vaping, don’t know that vaping is less harmful”,
although evidence shows that vaping is
“unlikely to be risk-free.”
Mr Virendra Sharma the Labour MP for Ealing Southall raised the question about regulation and empowerment of Trading Standards to enforce compliance.
Mary Glindon said she has worked with tobacco companies such as BAT (British American Tobacco UK) and Japan Tobacco International plus the UKVIA (UK Vaping Industry Association) to look at regulation of vaping products.
She shared her concerns of youth vaping numbers and said that the UKVIA called for licensing or approved distributor / retailer schemes to filter out those who are not complying with the laws in place.
The fact that there are insufficient deterrents and enforcement needs rectifying…
“Given the rise of rogue traders selling vaping products to children—as well as illicit products—due to the lack of sufficient deterrents and enforcement, the industry sent an open letter to the Health Secretary with a number of recommendations, including increased penalties of at least £10,000 per instance of traders flouting the law. The Minister may be well aware of that, so I will not go into any more detail. Colleagues can look at that if they wish.”
The recent incident regarding the overfilling of the Disposable Vape Elf Bar was mentioned…
“Following the publication of that information, a meeting was convened between the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency, the Office for Health Improvement and Disparities, and ElfBar last month. However, to date, no action has been taken by MHRA or Trading Standards to remove those non-compliant products from the market. The problem reinforces the industry’s call for tighter controls and fines, which I hope the Minister is considering in full.”
The issue of Disposable single use vapes was then discussed…
“The industry is also aware of the concerns about single-use vapes, which offer a cost-effective and easy way for those on low incomes to quit smoking, and thus help to address health inequalities. A recent report from the Office for National Statistics showed that smoking is at an all-time low, and acknowledged the important role played by vaping in reducing those figures. A proposed ban on single-use products could put doubt into the minds of smokers and vapers about the use of e-cigarettes, and that could lead them back on to the smoking trail. It is important to point out that the UKVIA is working to ensure compliance with the waste electrical and electronic equipment directive, and is working with the industry and other bodies, including the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, to proactively look at ways to maximise the recycling and reuse of vaping products.”
She concluded by saying…
“I hope the Minister will look at all the considerations that need to go into the tobacco control plan, and will work with those industries so that vaping can be an effective and safe tool as an alternative to smoking in the future.”
Liz Twist is the Labour MP for Blaydon and she discussed in depth the damage smoking causes.
She quoted statistics from Asthma and Lung UK that say smoking is responsible for half of the difference in life expectancy between the richest and poorest in the UK.
The progress which has been made in her area – the North East has been huge with the biggest decline in adult smoking rates since 2005.
She said her local authority area of Gateshead…
“where 17% of adults still smoke, healthy life expectancy is just 58 years. That is five years lower than the national average, and there is an even wider gap between Gateshead and more affluent areas. That is a real problem. I see too many constituents suffering from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, of which smoking is the leading cause. Their lives are limited and cut short by COPD—by the effects of smoking. Some of us on the all-party parliamentary group on respiratory health have raised this issue in debates on COPD.”
Liz said it has been almost a year since the Javed Khan review and the multiple minister changes during that time have delayed things but now the recommendations must be implemented.
She concluded with…
“My big ask for today is quite simple: that the Government get on with the tobacco control plan, incorporate the Khan recommendations and, simply, stop more people dying and becoming ill from smoking.”
Rachael Maskell the MP for York Central was next up to speak.
She was very angry with the profits that tobacco companies make and how their products are harmful.
Also she got in a nice little dig…
“Those companies are using their resources wisely. British American Tobacco has bankrolled the Institute of Economic Affairs, a Tory think-tank that wants to privatise the NHS. One of its trustees has reported funding a former Health Secretary with £32,000 between 2010 and 2018—the less said about him, the better. With 30 Tory MPs benefiting in all, what could their motivation be? What could BAT’s motivation be? We will never forget Margaret Thatcher taking $1 million from Philip Morris as a consultant.”
So this makes the point of how tobacco companies are meddling in the hierarchy of politics.
She then sadly has a dig about vaping and how the tobacco companies are using vapes to target children to the latest “fad”…
“It is children that these despicable companies are targeting. I have been following the vaping debate, and child vaping is the latest fad. British American Tobacco and others are at it again, addicting children to their products, using different products at different times, with different flavours and colours and cheap devices. They are once again addicting a generation. Among young people, vaping is now seen as cool, as smoking once was, but the harms of these stimulants are unknown, and a lifetime of expense lies ahead, costing users physically, mentally and financially. These wolves in sheep’s clothing need calling out, and today’s debate is a good place to start.”
Hmmm – a bit over the top…
No smoking day and statistics in her local area are discussed plus some politics about Labour versus the Conservatives in the importance of health inequality.
The fact that the Smokefree 2030 target is unlikely right now due to there being no tobacco control plan and public health grants being cut by 40% over the term of this government.
She also wants to know what happened to the Khan recommendations (don’t we all!)…
“Despite Javed Khan’s independent review of tobacco control, published nearly a year ago, the Minister has been silent. Mr Khan recommends spending £125 million each year to enable the UK to hit its target, which will be missed without the investment that we absolutely need to see; increasing the age at which people can buy tobacco products; and ensuring that every public health intervention is made. I take the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Blaydon (Liz Twist) about the illicit trade in tobacco, which we also need to crack down on. There are 15 strong recommendations in Mr Khan’s review, and I want to see the Government taking action, responding to that report and publishing their plan.”
Mr Sharma then asked if the Government strategies and plans should include provision for Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic communities so that they can be targeted and helped to give up smoking.
“I thank my hon. Friend for making that really important intervention. We must help communities that are finding it hard to quit, including new communities. We really welcome the large number of asylum seekers who have come to York, but we know that there is a higher prevalence of smoking in that community. We must ensure that proper interventions are targeted at BAME communities too.”
Mary Kelly Foy
Mary Kelly Foy (Labour MP for City of Durham) was next to stand and she is the vice-chair of the APPG on Smoking and Health.
She is passionate about making smoking history and says that the last tobacco control plan expired last year and how there has been no response to the Khan recommendations.
“While we wait, thousands of people are getting sick and dying from smoking-related illnesses that are wholly preventable. Since 2000, more than 113,000 people in the north-east have died from smoking, and one person is admitted to hospital in the UK every minute due to smoking.”
She then talks about No Smoking day and its theme of smoking damaging the brain plus other life threatening / life altering illnesses.
The North East local authorities have been working to fund “Fresh” which is a tobacco control programme. Apparently since it was set up it has nearly halved the smoking rate in the North East. Fresh will continue to be funded by all 12 local authorities in the region.
Also the “Levelling Up White Paper on Health Inequalities” which was supposed to be a priority and the lack of action on the Khan Review risks not meeting the Smokefree 2030 goal and levelling up not happening.
She concludes with…
“Four years ago, the Government set out their ambition for England to become smoke free by 2030. In April 2022, I asked the Government to ensure that the tobacco control plan would deliver their ambition and that it would be published no later than three months after the Khan review. Here we are, nearly 12 months on, and I am still asking the same question and we are still waiting for action. The chair of the Durham health and wellbeing board even wrote to the Secretary of State about the Khan review, but she received a non-committal response. With that in mind, will the Minister tell us when he plans to publish the tobacco control plan and what the Government intend to commit to on the back of the Khan review? Every day that we wait, too many people are dying needlessly.”
Andrew Gwynne is the Labour MP for Denton and Reddish really gets stuck in about the inaction regarding a tobacco control plan…
“Friends—the tobacco control plan, which seems to have disappeared into the ether. Can the Minister confirm that he still intends to publish the tobacco control plan, and when it will be released? The hon. Member for Harrow East was very forceful on this point. If, as I fear, it is being held back because the Prime Minister is scared of upsetting some on his Back Benches, the Minister should front up and admit it.”
“The last tobacco control plan was published almost six years ago, and it has now expired. We are left in the bizarre situation where the Government continue to insist they are committed to smoke-free 2030, but they have no plan for how they intend to get there. The Minister is driving us to a destination, but he forgot to bring the map.”
Also the inaction regarding the Khan review recommendations is mentioned…
“In addition to providing a date for the next tobacco control plan, will the Minister provide a date for when he expects to respond in full to Javed Khan’s smoke-free review, which his Department commissioned and seems to have forgotten?”
He concludes with…
“Labour stands ready and waiting to build a healthier, happier and more prosperous England. Until then, the Minister has my assurances that whatever support the Government need to get back on track for their smoke-free 2030 target in England, Labour will provide.
“Tackling smoking is not partisan. It is in all of our interests to work towards a smoke-free 2030, so my message to the Minister is clear: we will support him, and let’s get on with it.”
Neil O’Brien is the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health and Social care.
He starts by thanking the previous speakers for their input.
Then he covers the topic of vaping…
“The hon. Member for North Tyneside (Mary Glindon) made an important point about the huge potential of vaping to help people stop smoking because it is much safer, but we must balance that against the important point made by the hon. Member for York Central (Rachael Maskell) about the need to prevent non-smokers, particularly children, from starting vaping.”
He then talks about the decrease in smoking rates to 13% which is an all time low.
Also he talks about the funding that has been provided…
“In 2021-22, we invested £68 million in local authority stop smoking services through the public health grant, and nearly 100,000 people quit with their support last year. I am proud to say that we have recorded more than 5 million successful quits since stop smoking services were established across England in 2000. That is 5 million lives that have been saved or improved as a result of quitting smoking.
Last year alone, the NHS invested £35 million in tobacco-dependency treatment. The NHS has committed to ensuring that all smokers admitted to hospital are offered NHS-funded tobacco treatment services. Pregnant women are routinely offered a carbon monoxide test, which is used to identify smokers and to refer them to support to quit. National campaigns, such as Stoptober, have helped 2.1 million people to quit since their inception in 2012.”
He talks about current tobacco regulations including plain packaging, display bans and banning smoking in cars. Those measures have apparently contributed to reducing smoking rates especially in children.
Liz Twist then asks whether the tobacco control plan will be included in the upcoming major conditions strategy.
He replies that the major conditions strategy will cover major illnesses such as cancer, mental health, stroke and diabetes and tobacco smoking will be covered as part of the causes.
On the issue of the Khan review he states…
“As many hon. Members have highlighted, last year the Government asked Dr Javed Khan to undertake an independent review to help to meet the smokefree 2030 ambition and reduce the devastation that smoking causes. My hon. Friend asked when we will set out our response. In the coming weeks, I will unveil a set of proposals to realise the smokefree 2030 ambition and to respond to the Khan review’s recommendations.”
He concluded with…
“I thank hon. Members for their patience. Although I cannot divulge the specifics of the proposals at this time, I assure hon. Members that they are grounded in the best evidence on reducing tobacco use and its associated harms. They are bold, innovative and ambitious, and we have carefully considered the Khan review’s recommendations as part of the process. I look forward to the opportunity to share more details with hon. Members very soon and to set out more details of our road map to a smokefree 2030.”
Bob replied to the previous speakers to thank them for contributing and closed with..
“… it is most important that the Government get on with the job. As I said, this has the support of the whole House. Let us get on and deliver it so that fewer people die from smoking.”