Parliamentary Inquiry into E-Cigarettes – A Pre-Meditated Government tax grab or an Opportunity for Lobbyists to give the Biggest push yet for NHS Approval?
Thu 2 Nov 2017
It has been announced in the UK that the Parliamentary committee for science and technology are to carry out an inquiry into e-cigarettes. That seems fairly kosher considering that the use of e-cigarettes has, by conservative estimates, risen almost 10-fold in the past five years.
This is until you read that the inquiry has been motioned not just to establish their impact on health, but to discover and fill the “gaps” in current legislation, and calculate the financial implications to the NHS. That final point could be positive or negative, the initial offering to the public for what is up for discussion is fairly mute on Parliament’s official website;
“Scope of the inquiry
The Science and Technology Committee examine the impact of electronic cigarettes on human health (including their effectiveness as a stop-smoking tool), the suitability of regulations guiding their use, and the financial implications of a growing market on both business and the NHS.”
A question that must be asked, considering the size of the Department for Health, is why is the largest parliamentary inquiry thus far into e-cigarettes not being conducted by the Parliamentary committee for health, chaired by a junior health minister? Sure, there is a significant crossover between the two committees (the Science & Technology committee are conducting an inquiry about genome editing in the NHS), but the inquiry should predominantly be about the overall health benefits to smoking cessation. Therefore the health committee (who are currently conducting an inquiry into air pollution and how to improve air quality) would be the suitable choice.
Perhaps I am overly sceptical of Parliament, and there is nothing sinister at play… but I feel that we have such an opportunity with an inquiry to have e-cigarettes given a true green light, the approval as a medicinal tool and the public acceptance that vaping is a healthy alternative to smoking, beneficial to the NHS and of no danger to non-vapers. To assign such a crucial inquiry to anything other than the health committee is at the very least a poor decision which will likely result in the same ambiguity for healthcare providers, and at worst it will become an exercise in legislation on top of that, rendering it a heavily regulated product along with other stigmatised substances, including of course, tobacco.
Alongside regulation comes taxation. An inquiry resulting in negative undertones would be a nice excuse to replace some of the lost tax revenues from those who have stopped smoking with an additional tax on electric cigarette products.
Regardless of the intention of the inquiry, and whatever recommendations and implications come from it, it is almost impossible not to imagine some positivity within.
This can provide valuable ammunition for vaping lobbyists who need something substantial, approved by the top of the hierarchy, to push forward on getting liquid and even vapourisers prescribed, especially to those who may not be able to afford an initial outlay on equipment, or who’s access to transportation is limited, residents of small hamlets where their shop doesn’t stock liquids and still don’t have access to the internet. Mostly to the millions with some concerns, doubt or mistrust, and just need a final push to convert…from a doctor. The most trusted of people to millions.
The inquiry is well on the agenda so we shall keep our eyes posted.
Written by ELFC content creator Alex Blatherwick
Further reading: A Call for Vape Friendly Logos