E-cigarettes in the UK: “good medicine” to quit smoking?

Britain is probably the friendliest country in terms of how it treats e-cigarettes. Regardless of government departments, health institutions or medical experts, it is basically regarded as a safe alternative to traditional tobacco.

The British e-cigarette market has developed rapidly in recent years, and the number of e-cigarette users has increased rapidly, reaching nearly half of the number of traditional smokers. Thanks to strict government and industry regulations on the quality and nicotine content of e-cigarettes, large-scale or severe illnesses related to e-cigarettes have not yet occurred in the UK.

Even so, the debate over the dangers of e-cigarettes and concerns about the use of e-cigarettes by minors has persisted in the UK.

After the United States and other countries have recently implemented various “bans” on e-cigarette products, will the United Kingdom continue to maintain recognition and support for e-cigarettes?

Why does the government support it?
As the world’s third largest consumer market for e-cigarettes, the United Kingdom is one of the most supportive countries in the world for e-cigarette development.

In 2017, the UK Department of Health published a policy document, “Towards a Smoke-Free Generation: The Tobacco Control Plan in England”, stating that the British Government is committed to achieving the “Smoke-Free Generation” five-year plan. The document clearly states that e-cigarettes are an effective way to help smokers quit, and that the UK government’s support for this innovative way to quit smoking is key to achieving the “smoke-free generation” strategy.

“More and more evidence shows that e-cigarettes are far less harmful to health than ordinary cigarettes. The government will continue to support consumers in quitting and adopting less harmful nicotine products,” the UK Department of Health’s policy paper wrote.

In 2018, the United Kingdom began to allow the sale of e-cigarettes in hospitals and provide patients with e-cigarette lounges to encourage smokers to switch from traditional tobacco to e-cigarettes and eventually quit smoking.

Original intention In the UK, e-cigarettes still maintain the original intention and position of being invented-a tool to help adults quit combustible cigarettes.

The British government and the medical community ’s support for e-cigarettes stemmed mainly from an independent review of the 2015 Public Health Agency (PHE), an executive agency of the UK Department of Health. The review concluded that e-cigarettes are 95% safer than common tobacco in terms of user health, and have helped tens of thousands of smokers quit.

This data has since been widely publicized by health agencies such as the British government and the National Health Service (NHS), and has become a powerful tool for promoting electronic cigarettes to replace ordinary tobacco.

Subsequently, the British government asked the Public Health Agency of England to update the safety review of e-cigarettes every year by 2022, and to publish the review report in February every year. So far, every year’s reports still “support” the efficacy of e-cigarettes as a good drug to quit smoking.

Except for medical research that proves that e-cigarettes are safe, no serious cases related to e-cigarettes have occurred in the UK in real life. Unlike the current situation of young people smoking e-cigarettes in the United States, the popularity of e-cigarettes among non-smokers in the UK has not soared. Surveys of adult smokers in the UK also show that the vast majority of people use e-cigarettes to quit traditional tobacco.

All this shows that in the UK, e-cigarettes still maintain the original intention and position of being invented-a tool to help adults quit combustible cigarettes. This has also become an important reason why British authorities have always supported e-cigarettes.

There are rules to follow in production and sales
Because of its strong belief in the role of e-cigarettes in quitting traditional tobacco, British health authorities consider e-cigarettes to be one of the drugs used to treat addiction and are managed by the United Kingdom Medicines and Health Products Agency (hereafter referred to as the “Drug Authority”). Manufacturers need to submit e-cigarette product descriptions, which can only be sold in the UK market with the approval of the FDA. Anyone, including consumers and medical personnel, can report the side effects and safety issues of e-cigarette products to the FDA.

As a pharmaceutical, the production and sale of e-cigarettes in the UK must comply with super detailed regulatory regulations.

As the world’s third largest consumer market for e-cigarettes, the United Kingdom is one of the most supportive countries in the world for e-cigarette development.

All e-cigarette products on the UK market must comply with the EU’s Tobacco Products Regulations. In May 2016, the United Kingdom introduced the “Tobacco and Related Products Management Regulations” formulated on the basis of the above-mentioned EU regulations, making more specific management and enforcement requirements for the manufacture, display and sales of electronic cigarettes in the UK market.

According to the latest regulations of the EU ’s “Tobacco Products Regulations”, the safety and quality of all e-cigarettes and e-liquid devices sold in the EU market must meet EU minimum standards; the product information on the electronic cigarette product packaging must be clear and not mislead or hinder consumption Make choices; avoid minors imitating adults’ use of electronic cigarettes.

Specific to the British market, starting from May 20, 2017, the United Kingdom requires that the volume of a single cigarette pipe of electronic cigarettes does not exceed 2 ml; the maximum capacity of refilled cigarette oil does not exceed 10 ml; the nicotine concentration of cigarette oil does not exceed 20 per ml Mg; nicotine-containing products and their packaging must be able to prevent children from unpacking and cannot be restored after disassembly; prohibit the addition of certain ingredients in e-liquids, including pigments, caffeine, and taurine; add new labels to the packaging And warnings; all e-cigarette products must be notified to the FDA before they are marketed in the UK, whether they are e-cigarette tubes or e-liquids.

British e-cigarettes are usually sold in supermarket tobacco counters, specialty stores and pharmacies. E-cigarette packaging must clearly state that the product is addictive and not intended for use by minors under 18 years of age. Sellers have the right to require consumers to produce identification documents to prove their age.

Advertising for e-cigarettes is also clearly limited. In the UK, television, radio, newspapers, periodicals, websites and emails are not allowed to place e-cigarette advertisements directly or indirectly; cinemas, outdoor, car bodies, faxes, and blogs are the main places to display e-cigarette advertisements.

Official position expected to remain
Thanks to these detailed industry regulations, the UK’s e-cigarette market has maintained a healthy development, and it has given the authorities the confidence to support e-cigarettes. But British society’s controversy and concerns about e-cigarettes have not disappeared as a result.

Despite support from the authorities, controversy and concerns about e-cigarettes in British society have not subsided.

A research report published by researchers at the University of Birmingham in the United Kingdom last year suggested that long-term smoking of e-cigarettes may cause important immune cells in the body to lose their function, and the statement that e-cigarettes are “safe for the human body” may be wrong.

The study pointed out that if only the chemical composition of cigarettes and electronic cigarettes were compared, then electronic cigarettes did contain less carcinogens than traditional cigarettes. But “if a person smokes e-cigarettes for two or three decades, this habit may still lead to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.” To this end, researchers call on the outside world to remain skeptical of e-cigarettes.

British health authorities also agree that e-cigarettes are not without risks. According to the UK Drug Administration, between May 2016 and September 2019, the agency received dozens of reports of adverse reactions related to e-cigarettes.

In addition, British media exposed that some retailers sold e-cigarettes to minors without checking documents, which also caused social concerns.

Faced with these problems, coupled with the recent deaths from lung diseases caused by the frequent e-cigarettes in the United States, and the restrictions imposed by many countries on e-cigarettes, will the United Kingdom change its position on e-cigarettes? The answer is: there is no indication that the British government intends to change.

PHE recently issued a statement on its official Twitter account: “E-cigarettes are not completely risk-free, but far less harmful than smoking ordinary cigarettes.” It can be confirmed that the British authorities’ opinions on e-cigarettes remain unchanged.

The U.S. Department of Health announced in September that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration will introduce regulations to ban the sale of non-tobacco flavored e-cigarette products to control the trend of young people smoking e-cigarettes. Authorities in the UK face similar appeals, but Martin Dockrell, head of the PHE Tobacco Control Program, said that banning the addition of flavors to e-cigarettes could cause e-cigarette users to re-smog ordinary cigarettes, which in turn could Young people provide more examples of adult smoking, “and this is the main driving force for many young people to start smoking.”

He believes that the majority of deaths from e-cigarettes in the United States are related to the use of illegal aerosols. These people buy or make e-liquids containing hemp on the street. E-cigarette products in the UK have been strictly controlled, and their quality and safety are more guaranteed.

In fact, the 2017 Tobacco Control Plan policy document of the British Ministry of Health indicates that after Brexit, the British government may intentionally relax the provisions of e-cigarette regulations. The document states that the British government will “take review of current legislation with Brexit as an opportunity” and, on the principle of continuing to monitor the safety of e-cigarettes, “determine whether there is room to appropriately relax (e-cigarette) controls without compromising public health” .

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