I am writing in response to your article entitled, “Michael Matheson: e-cigs could lead to smoking being normalised again”, published on the 27th of February 2014.
In your article you stated that from 2016, e-cigarettes will be regulated as a medicinal product in the UK under regulations introduced by the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA). This is not the case.
On the 12th of June 2013 the MHRA stated that they wished to regulate ‘nicotine containing products’ (e-cigarettes) in line with the proposed EU Tobacco Products Directive (TPD), which at that time supported the medicinal regulation of e-cigarettes.
On the 8th of October MEPs voted against the medicinal regulation of e-cigarettes, a move that was later supported by the Member States in Council. Since then the MHRA is on record as stating that it no longer proposes to introduce the blanket medicinal regulation of e-cigarettes. The TPD, passed in Strasbourg this week, proposes medicinal regulation only for those products which seek to make a medicinal claim or those products with a nicotine strength greater than 20 ml.
We have written separately to the Minister regarding his comments. However, we feel it is also important to point out to influential journalists and newspaper editors that 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.
You will be aware that policy makers in England and Wales have recently introduced bans on the sale of e-cigarettes to those under the age of 18. This is something we publicly welcomed at the time and would strongly urge Scotland to introduce a similar ban on sales to those under the age of 18.