The plan sets out specific national commitments to help smokers to quit, taking a pragmatic approach to harm reduction, and recognising the legitimate role that next generation products can play in achieving favourable public health outcomes. Specifically, it states that:
- The best thing a smoker can do for their health is to quit smoking. However, the evidence is increasingly clear that e-cigarettes are significantly less harmful to health than smoking tobacco. The government will seek to support consumers in stopping smoking and adopting the use of less harmful nicotine products.
- The government welcomes innovation that will reduce the harms caused by smoking and will evaluate whether products such as novel tobacco products have a role to play in reducing the risk of harm to smokers.
- The government will continue to embrace developments that have the potential to reduce the harm caused by tobacco use and as such we will consider if the current regulatory framework strikes the right balance, and whether there is more we can do to help people to stop smoking.
Speaking about the Plan today, Marc Michelsen, Senior Vice President of Corporate Affairs and Communications at Fontem Ventures said: “It is heartening to see the government embracing the principle of harm reduction, acknowledging the growing body of research around e-cigarettes, and acting upon the latest evidence.
We welcome this very positive step, which promotes the use of less harmful nicotine products amongst smokers who are seeking a route out of tobacco. As a responsible manufacturer, we are committed to ongoing innovation that can bring those products to market.”
Since the previous Tobacco Control Plan’s introduction in 2011, smoking prevalence has substantially reduced; from 20.2% of adults smoking at the start of the plan to just 15.5% now, the lowest level since records began.
Many public health groups have attributed the increasingly rapid decline of smoking rates to the growing popularity of e-cigarettes.
“We know that over half of all e-cigarette users in the UK have successfully quit tobacco altogether, which is significant, but we also know consumers remain confused over the devices and their benefits,” said Michelsen. “In light of this, we welcome the government’s commitment to reviewing current regulatory frameworks to ensure they support the development and use of less harmful products. Importantly, any review of the EU Tobacco Products Directive must include provisions for clear separation between vaping devices and tobacco-containing products. The government should also prioritise the urgent need to better educate smokers about e-cigarettes so that they can adopt them in larger numbers.”
The plan looks at public awareness and the cost of smoking to society – around 79,000 preventable deaths in England and an estimated cost to the economy in excess of £11 billion per year – and discusses preventative measures for a smokefree generation, which it defines as a smoking prevalence rate of 5% or less.