UKVIA Forum 2023
On Friday 10th November, Adam Afriyie, MP for Windsor and Vice Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Vaping, gave a keynote speech at the sixth annual UK Vaping Industry Association (UKVIA) Forum at the Queen Elizabeth II Centre in Westminster, London. The conference brought together representatives from the vaping industry, parliamentarians, public health professionals, regulators and researchers to discuss and promote the public health benefits brought by vapes, as well as the challenges ahead facing the industry.
The theme of this year’s conference was Accelerating Action to Secure a World Without Smoking, and through a series of speeches and panel discussions, addressed how vaping can continue to be the best possible tool to help smokers switch to less harmful alternatives, and thereby facilitate the achievement of the Government’s target for England to be smokefree by 2030. It also discussed the looming regulatory threats to the sector, in light of the issues of rising youth vaping and increasing levels of waste, particularly from disposable devices.
Adam gave his keynote speech as part of the conference’s opening remarks. He began by commenting that the incredible success vaping has had in reducing rates of smoking in the UK can be put down to the rational, evidence-based approach pursued by the Government towards the devices, in the form of a relatively permissive policy with the goal of reducing the immense harm caused by tobacco. This has been predicated on the overwhelming evidence that vaping is substantially safer than smoking (by at least 95%, according to the Office for Health Improvement and Disparities, formerly Public Health England) with tens of thousands of lives saved across the UK by smokers choosing to switch. He observed that the UK’s evidence-based policy towards vaping stands in contrast to the reactionary restrictions and bans imposed by many other countries, which are not remotely rooted in science, and often purely based on fear-mongering.
He noted that this contrast represents a wider global divide in policy-making, with the dangers of the latter approach being embodied most prominently by the World Health Organisation (WHO) in their recently-postponed COP10 conference to the FCTC (Framework Convention on Tobacco Control), which is now expected to be held sometime in early 2024 in Panama City. This was in reference to the published agenda of the conference, which will propose a number of unnecessary and burdensome restrictions on vaping, in an extremely opaque process taking place behind closed doors, with no journalists allowed in to scrutinise proceedings.
Adam then remarked that the success of the vaping industry has been in large part down to the remarkable innovation it has achieved, driven by the natural process of competition, bringing not only enormous consumer benefits, but huge gains for public health. However, he noted that over the last few years, there have been growing attacks on vapes from multiple fronts, with many media outlets driving clicks by homing in on the small minority of bad actors in the marketplace who are tarnishing the reputation of the industry as a whole. This includes the publication of stories covering illicit products from major brands being removed by supermarkets, a rise in youth vaping, and the environmental impact of the devices. With this constant ‘background noise’, he observed, it is not surprising that the Prime Minister and No.10 are mulling a ban on disposable vapes.
In light of this, Adam warned that in the ‘frenzy’ of competition, the industry should not lose sight of its responsibilities. If vape manufacturers begin to sway from their core purpose of harm reduction by cynically marketing their devices to children, or abuse the trust of consumers by not complying with the law; which requires that their products sold in the UK adhere to extremely high standards, the Government and regulators will respond with further restrictions or bans.
The UK should continue its pragmatic, evidence-based approach to vaping, rooted in harm reduction, and not be swayed by the irrational temptations of the precautionary principle. In this vein, Adam encouraged the various representatives at the conference, through UKVIA, to feed into the Government’s current consultation on measures to tackle youth vaping. He added that he hoped for this consultation to come to the ‘most boring’ conclusions possible, by recommending no major changes to the current regulatory environment, other than perhaps a few small measures to discourage vapes being marketed and sold to children, but with the main focus being on enhancing enforcement of existing laws.
Finally, Adam predicted that the industry will solve the environmental challenges presented by disposable vapes through innovation and competition (which will lead to the development of recyclable and biodegradable products) as well the effect of market and some government pressure. In addition, he expressed confidence that the industry have the willingness and common sense to act on youth vaping. He warned that the alternative to industry taking the necessary action would be retaliatory, counter-productive legislation from government, as has been seen elsewhere, leading to dreadful public health outcomes all round: for example, Australia, by effectively banning nicotine-containing vapes, has become the only country in the developed world to see a recent rise in smoking rates amongst both adults and teenagers.
By following this advice and acting responsibly, the industry will be able to rise to the challenge and help England reach its smokefree 2030 target, consigning tobacco to the ash heap of history.
UKVIA Industry Recognition Awards
The Forum was followed in the evening by the second annual UKVIA Industry Recognition Awards. Consisting of sixteen categories, these awards recognise organisations and individuals who have made significant contributions to the promotion of vaping as a harm reduction tool, and those who have supported the industry in various aspects of its work including innovation, research, education and compliance.
Being nominated alongside Mark Pawsey, MP for Rugby, and Mary Glindon, MP for North Tyneside, Adam won the award in the Most Supportive Parliamentarian category.
Adam Afriyie, MP for Windsor, said:
“I am delighted to have received this award from UKVIA. Through my role as Vice-Chair of the APPG for Vaping, and as an MP concerned with reducing the immense harm caused by tobacco, I have been consistently making the case for vaping as a highly effective tool to help smokers quit.
Being a former smoker myself, I know the damage that it can cause to individuals and society as the leading cause of illness and preventable death in England. Through the work this industry does at the cutting edge of science and technology to offer a better and safer alternative to cigarettes, it has empowered tens of thousands of people in the UK alone to make their own decision to quit, improving their health, and in many cases, literally saving their lives. All the evidence shows that vaping is not only far safer than smoking, but the most effective quit mechanism around.
Therefore, I have been very pleased to use my platform in Parliament to advocate for something which is making a real difference at the vanguard of public health. I have also been resolute in encouraging the various stakeholders in the industry, whether manufacturers, distributors or retailers, to act responsibly to root out the bad apples that seek to undermine the good they have done, as well as work together to tackle the challenges facing the sector, ensuring that they can continue to play their part in building a smokefree future.”
To find out more about UKVIA, visit their website