Today, the Government announced, via a press release that they would be banning the sale of e-cigarettes to under 18 year olds. This is welcome news. Save E-cigs have been calling for this for months and responsible vendors have been doing this for years despite the lack of legislation. E-cigarettes should not be sold to minors or non-smokers and we are delighted that the Government now agrees.
If however, this is the Government’s long held view, why did they support in Council an amended TPD that did not contain such an age restriction?
Despite welcoming the Government’s announcement, we seriously question the manner in which it was made. Once again, the Government used this opportunity to peddle their standard misinformation regarding e-cigarettes. We were told that this policy was being introduced to prevent children buying potentially “toxic” e-cigarettes. That it was a response to “concerns that growing numbers of children are taking up e-cigarettes, before becoming addicted to nicotine and moving on to regular smoking.” Most worrying of all, we were told that ministers had been moved to act following “anecdotal” evidence that e-cigarettes were gaining in popularity, with some reports of children smoking them in class.
Now we support this announcement, we called for such restrictions when the Government was not supportive, but legislation based on “anecdotal” evidence is very worrying. Now let’s look at those government statements in a little more detail.
Research, including a recent survey commissioned by ASH, has shown time and time again that e-cigarettes are not attractive to young people, and are therefore not used as a gateway to smoking tobacco cigarettes. Although awareness of e-cigarettes was widespread amongst young people aged 11 to 18, the ASH survey found no evidence that young people either used or perceived e-cigarettes as being a gateway to smoking.
Evidence produced by a variety of organisations including ASH and the American Cancer Society (ACS) clearly shows that flavours do not entice non-smokers to use e-cigarettes, especially the young, as they have no interest in the product.
Researchers from the ACS looked specifically into the enticement of flavours. They found that flavours did not increase the attractiveness of e-cigarettes to teenagers. Rather, “Even after controlling for other statistically significant correlates, the odds of a smoker being willing to try an e-cigarette were 10 times those of a non-smoker.”
Tobacco cigarettes are the gateway to tobacco smoking, not e-cigarettes.
As for the claim that e-cigarettes are potentially “toxic” and that we do not know what is in them, well again this is just not true. We do know what is in them, PG, VG, nicotine, and flavourings. Again many responsible manufacturers test their e liquid so they and we know exactly what is in them. Only two weeks ago a group of vapers set up a crowd funding website to raise money to fund further independent testing. We know that responsible manufacturers have also contributed.
These facts are readily available to anyone who cares to look, and Save E-cigs and countless others have been making policy makers aware of them for months. Why then do the Government continue to peddle this misinformation and why do journalists publish them unquestioningly? After all, the Government provide no evidence to support their claims; in fact they admit their evidence is “anecdotal”.
All this government misinformation and sloppy journalism does is scare people and encourage them to continue smoking tobacco cigarettes rather than switching to the safer e-cigarette.
So we welcome the fact that the Government has finally agreed to introduce age restrictions for the sale of e-cigarettes, but can government please, please, please stop making policy based on anecdotal evidence and instead start basing it on readily available independent factual evidence. Is that really too much to ask?
 ASH surveyed 12,597 adults in 2010 – the questions focused on e-cigarette use and awareness in Great Britain. The preliminary survey was followed up by an additional study of adult smokers and non-smokers in February 2012 and more recently in 2013. ASH also surveyed children and young people aged 11 to 18 in March 2013.