A new independent report by the U.K. government has recommended doubling down on vaping as a way of driving down smoking rates. While the U.S. Food and Drug Administration dithers and backslides on regulating products that it fully recognizes are far less harmful than smoking, across the pond they are talking of a “vaping revolution” with cross-party political support.
The June 2022 report aims to “mak[e] smoking obsolete” and considers vaping products to be central to its plans to achieve the government’s goal of being smoke-free by 2030. Recommending that the government “must embrace the promotion of vaping as an effective tool to help people to quit smoking tobacco,” report author Javed Khan OBE has put forward progressive policy proposals on harm reduction which put the FDA’s precautionary principle approach to shame.
He suggests that health professionals should offer vapes to smokers in health settings as a substitute for smoking and that government should accelerate the pathway by offering vaping products to be prescribed by the National Health Service. Furthermore, he recommends that vaping products should be provided free of charge to smokers in deprived communities, advocates for the products to not be subjected to a retail sales tax, and demands that smoking cessation information campaigns routinely include vaping as a means of quitting smoking.
In direct contrast to the misinformation campaigns by public health groups in the U.S., Mr. Khan also calls for skeptical health professionals to be properly educated about the less harmful nature of e-cigarettes, and calls for a national information campaign to “dismantle myths about smoking and vaping.”
Furthermore, in announcing the publication of the review, U.K. Secretary of State for Health, Sajid Javid, categorically stated in the House of Commons that “[v]aping is far less harmful than smoking and is an effective quitting device,” something that one could never imagine the bumbling FDA to declare so unambiguously.
While the FDA has been floundering, with only nine vaping products authorized amid millions of applications, the U.K. fully recognizes the benefits of harm reduction and is forging ahead in improving the public’s health in a manner that the FDA seems incapable of doing.
At a conference in Europe last month, Benjamin Apelberg, deputy director at the FDA’s Center for Tobacco Products claimed that the FDA “envisions a world where cigarettes would no longer create or sustain addiction & where adults who still seek nicotine could get it from alternative and less harmful sources.”
Yet the same agency has spent the last few years burdening the vaping market with a never-ending series of obstacles that has devastated small businesses, shrunk the market to a handful of authorized devices and created so much doubt around the products that only a pitiful 2.6% of the American public correctly believe that vaping is “much less harmful” than smoking cigarettes, according to the latest U.S. National Cancer Institute HINTS survey.
The new U.K. report shows that there is a far more grown-up conversation taking place across the Atlantic around vaping and other reduced-risk nicotine products, while the FDA has been blundering and obsessing about youth vaping, leading adult smokers to continue smoking, and does not appear to want to have a sensible conversation at all, let alone afford adults the opportunity to even try reduced-risk tobacco products.
How can it be that a nation as proud as the U.S. can be so badly served by the damaging bureaucratic mess ineptly concocted by the FDA towards potentially life-saving vaping products? The FDA should carefully study what is happening in the U.K. with vaping and tobacco harm reduction and learn some lessons on how to regulate reduced-risk tobacco products for the benefit of its citizens rather than pander to the fanatics and heavily funded nicotine prohibitionists who currently guide the agency’s approach.
• Martin Cullip is an international fellow at The Taxpayers Protection Alliance’s Consumer Center and is based in South London, U.K.
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