Lawmakers in the United Kingdom are floating the idea of placing advertisements on cigarette packaging encouraging smokers to switch to vaping.
MP Stephen Metcalfe suggested the reform during a hearing of the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee April 24 as a way to accelerate declines in the country’s smoking rate. Steve Brine, the U.K.’s pharmacy minister, thought the proposal had potential and will consider making the change, he said, according to Vaping Post.
Reforms would need to be made to current law to allow the promotion of a product on cigarette packaging, officials with the Department of Health and Social Care noted but were open to the idea.
“It’s an interesting point; let me think about it,” Brine said at the hearing. “In a time of tight resource, it’s a very direct message.”
The U.K. currently has the second lowest smoking rate in all of Europe, and vaping is a big part of the reason, officials said. The country is the global leader in tobacco harm reduction policy, encouraging smokers to ditch combustible tobacco for a healthier option. There are currently roughly 3 million active vapers in the U.K.
The Royal College of Physicians agrees that using e-cigarettes eliminates most of the harms attributed to smoking. The medical body also recommends vaping for patients trying to quit traditional tobacco products.
E-cigarettes should be available for sale in U.K. hospitals and vaping should be permitted in single-occupancy rooms as well as designated communal rooms, Martin Dockerell, head of Public Health England’s tobacco control efforts, recently argued.
The suggestion came in the wake of an independent review of existing research on e-cigarettes published Feb. 6 by Public Health England, which confirmed the devices eliminate 95 percent of the risks of combustible cigarettes, because the majority of cancer causing chemicals are released when tobacco is burned.
Roughly 20,000 smokers in the U.K. are using e-cigarettes to quit smoking each year, researchers estimate.
Federal and local health regulators in the U.S., who remain adversarial towards alternative smoking technologies, could learn a lot from the approach of medical bodies in the U.K., public health experts focused on harm reduction said. Vaping should be promoted as a way to reduce smoking prevalence and improve health outcomes for millions of Americans, they added.
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