2 February 2022

Britain is missing out on one of the biggest benefits of Brexit

By Mark Oates

Despite releasing its ‘Benefits of Brexit’ white paper earlier this week, in too many areas the Government still seems to lack the will or the imagination to diverge from EU laws. Ministers seem more concerned with putting crown symbols on pint glasses than potentially saving the lives of millions of smokers by taking advantage of a golden opportunity to scrap anti-scientific vaping rules.

Whilst a member of the European Union, Britain’s laws surrounding vaping were largely controlled by the EU’s Tobacco Products Directive (TPD). To Britain’s credit, while the bureaucrats in Brussels and other member states wanted to restrict vaping products even further, our government was standing up for a more liberal approach – helping forestall an EU-wide ban on vaping products. Now that we have left, other EU member states’ desires to restrict vaping have stepped up a notch. With flavour bans appearing in countries such as Denmark and an EU wide vape tax is now being touted, it clearly shows the role the UK was playing in holding back the tide of regulation.

Britain could and should remove some of those restrictions which are actually hindering smokers moving to far safer reduced-risk nicotine products. For many a non-vaper, some of these regulations will sound odd, but for vapers like me, and thousands of others who are members of We Vape, they are infuriating. Currently the EU laws we inherited restrict the size of the bottles of e-liquids you can buy and also the tank sizes. Imagine electric cars are e-cigarettes and combustible engines are cigarettes, then this is akin to restricting electric car batteries to a miniscule size. What would be the result of such a restriction? It would discourage electric car use. This is exactly what’s happening with our current vaping restrictions – they are keeping people smoking.

What the Government hasn’t seemed to get its head around of late is that it is the combustion in cigarettes that is the problem – not tobacco or nicotine. Therefore, one policy which would have a large impact in helping the heaviest of smokers quit would be allowing an increase in the nicotine limit of e-liquids. Many smokers try vaping but it doesn’t give them the same level of nicotine as they get from cigarettes, so they move back to smoking. By allowing an increased concentration of nicotine, vaping can start to reach some of those hard to reach smokers that so far haven’t completed the switch. Every move from smoking to vaping represents a potential life saved.

One of the most ridiculous EU policies which was taken onto our statute books during the withdrawal act is the nonsensical ban on Swedish Snus. We know that snus, tobacco pouches held in the lip, are vastly safer than smoking and the reason why Sweden and Norway have the lowest smoking rates in Europe. The effect of reduced-risk alternatives can be best observed in Swedish men who use more snus than their female compatriots, but smoke less. The result is that Swedish men have the lowest level of tobacco-related mortality among men in Europe. Whilst members of the EU it was not possible for Britain to legalise snus but now we are out we can and should be doing so.

Whether you voted to leave the EU or not, it sure seems wise to take up as many opportunities to improve UK policy now that we can. There is of course another, even stronger reason for Brexiteers to wish to diverge where possible: that’s in order to prevent us being forced back in. If Britain liberalises its vape laws away from the EU’s then you can bet that the 3.6 million vapers in the UK aren’t going to be too keen on rejoining, nor would the millions of snus users wish to see their chosen safer nicotine products banned.

Whether it is saving lives, protecting Brexit or just increasing freedom, it’s time for this government to take advantage of the opportunities which an independent Britain has offered.

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Mark Oates is a fellow of the Adam Smith Institute and Director of WeVape.

Columns are the author's own opinion and do not necessarily reflect the views of CapX.