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The two COVID-19 lockdowns caused all vape shops to be closed despite the clamour to recognise them as being important for public health. Those stores lost a large amount of income. With this being written at the end of 2020, current news is discussing spiralling infection rates in many parts of the country and the government are talking about a new strain of virus. The last thing vape stores need is the prospect of another period of enforced closure. While this has benefitted online retailers, non-chain brick & mortar stores don’t have any fat left to trim. Another period of closure would see them not opening up again.
Research results are due next year to add to our understanding of nicotine products and the lack of users appearing to contract severe symptoms. While it appears that the link between nicotine and ACE2 receptors limits the virus’ ability to enter the body, this theory is still to be proved through published peer-reviewed papers.
The ability to move away from the current constraints of the TPD has already been discussed by Clive bates and in a New Nicotine Alliance webcast at the end of 2020. Also, Mark Pawsey MP, chair of the All-party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Vaping, has spoken of his desire to see an end to 10ml bottle sizes and the 20mg/ml cap on nicotine concentration.
Legislation that can address issues created by the TPD (which would end the ridiculous level of packaging waste) would also be able to address other novel nicotine products. The government has said it is looking at relative harm claims for heated tobacco products and a number of organisations have asked MPs to address the lack of legislation surrounding tobacco-free snus pouches. At the same time, we would have the chance to legalise the sale of tobacco snus. While a broader range of products would challenge the vape market, it would open up more escape routes for smokers to continue using nicotine but reducing harm exposure.
The caveat here is that some experts are forecasting that we may not diverge from the TPD/TPD3 in order to conform with a future trade agreement. This presupposes we ever get to a stage of agreeing a trade agreement.
Additionally, forces are coalescing behind a push for more restrictive UK legislation. Action on Smoking and Health, previously thought of as pro-vaping, ended the year repeating a call for a limit to the number of flavours of eliquids and for plain packaging to be adopted. If ASH is taking this stance now then you can bank on Bloomberg money paying for more extreme views to be pushed into the media and the lobby corridors of parliament.
Finally, vaping has enjoyed huge success in the UK because of the influence of Public Health England. Without this voice in the future tobacco harm reduction will be more open to attack from ideologues and prohibitionist zealots.
With the common-sense pro-vaping UK voice no longer in the room, the direction of travel of TPD3 looks ominous. Some countries are already levying higher rates of taxes onto vape products, some are pushing for or have banned flavours, and those driving the process have spoken about restricting packaging design, flavours and limiting ingredients. Some are even discussing banning open system atomisers.
Last year, Clive Bates and the New Nicotine Alliance repeated the point that despite leaving the EU we won’t have escaped its influence. The large trading block wields huge sway over the world when it comes to vaping legislation with many copy-pasting chunks from the TPD into their laws. It’s imperative that we try to influence it, but the chances of that actually happening are slim to none as UK vapers believe they have escaped.
A recent study by a Dutch trade organisation revealed that a flavour ban would lead to an anticipated 58% drop in store revenue and eight in ten of the 250 e-cigarette retailers expect to go bankrupt. The threat to the economy, jobs, and public health couldn’t be more real – will vapers respond to protect it all?
The year begins without Stanton Glantz spreading his poison and Donald Trump’s cold then lukewarm approach to vaping. The election result also mean we can say farewell to one of the most insipid and intellectually limited Surgeon Generals in living memory. There will be others to fill Glantz’ shoes, Joe Biden fronts a party that has already tried for a national flavour ban, and one of the USSG nominees was one who already did the job and failed to recognise vaping’s potential to combat tobacco harm – change doesn’t mean things will be better.
The FDA will eventually publish a list of approved products, for what that’s worth. And, oddly for a country that has had an increasingly hysterical approach to tobacco harm reduction, it voted to embrace marijuana – with one state actually decriminalising all illegal drugs. Eventually reason and evidence will prevail, but it won’t be in 2021.
Bloomberg has tentacles everywhere with groups attempting to influence international approaches to vaping and harm reduction. From the Far East to the city of Bath, his wealth has distorted and polarised debate. The WHO has been a willing recipient of millions of dollars as it aligned itself with his anti-tobacco stance – and now paints all consumer advocacy groups as Big Tobacco AstroTurf and ignores pro-vaping research or paints the authors as recipients of tobacco industry funding.
COP9 will take a hard-line on vaping, a coordinated attack done in conjunction with those behind TPD3, and advocates will have a terrible job making inroads. One positive is Mark Pawsey announcing that the APPG for Vaping is going to conduct a review in order to try to influence COP9’s outcomes. I’m not aware of a single other country attempting to do this in a pro-vaping way.
Ultimately, 2021 will bring more of the same. Conditions for vaping and vapers around the world will get worse, the UK will have a fight but things will improve slightly, and Michael Bloomberg will still throw money at liars to fund lies.
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