THE SCOTTISH Government’s plan to ban all advertising for vaping has been branded “nonsensical” and “dangerous” by a campaigner.
Mark Oates, fellow at the Adam Smith Institute, said the strategy currently being considered is ill thought through and could lead to more smokers dying.
A consultation was launched on Thursday to determine public views on the banning of vape advertising, with the aim of ruling out promotions in places such as bus shelters and billboards.
Ministers say that reducing “exposure to advertising and promotion of vape products is the best way to protect” people who do not smoke, as well as “young people and children from being enticed to experiment” with vaping.”
However Mr Oates, who also runs vaping advocacy group WeVape, has accused Scottish ministers of dismissing their own NHS health guidance and said the plans could go against the current goal of having a smoke-free Scotland by 2030.
He told The Herald on Sunday the plans could stop those who currently smoke from switching to vaping, while there is no evidence that young people are taking up vaping on a large scale.
He said: the 19-page consultation document was a “series of contradictions that could ultimately contribute to the death of even more smokers in Scotland and make the country’s 2030 smoke free target unachievable.”
Mr Oates added: “Throughout the paper, the government accepts vaping is twice as effective as any other means of quitting smoking, then goes on to tell us why we should ban telling people about it.
“The government’s own research shows the vast majority of vapers are adult ex-smokers. It accepts there has been no significant increase of use in young people in recent years, despite the huge uptake of vaping as a quitting tool in adults.
“It also acknowledges evidence from the British Medical Association and NHS Scotland, who both state vaping should be highly encouraged as a quitting tool, then ignores it and quotes the World Health Organisation’s warped and unscientific view vaping is as bad as smoking tobacco. We know this is simply wrong.”
The World Health Organisation published a report last year which warned that many countries were“not addressing emerging nicotine and tobacco products and failing to regulate them”.
It said that vaping risked undoing years of progress to “denormalise” smoking and that e-cigarettes could “renormalise” the practice.
The report also encouraged governments to “strictly regulate” vaping products, explaining they “should be strictly regulated, and, most importantly, must be kept away from children.”
It continued: “Nicotine is highly addictive and found in most e-cigarettes. Both tobacco products and e-cigarettes pose risks to health and the safest approach is not to consume either.”
The WHO stance was widely condemned by UK health experts, with Public Health England saying vaping is one fo the most effective ways to stop smoking.
NHS Scotland also recommends vaping for smokers looking to give up, with a joint statement issued by the body and 20 other organisations explaining: “There is now agreement based on the current evidence that vaping e-cigarettes is definitely less harmful than smoking tobacco.
“Although most e-cigarettes contain nicotine, which is addictive, vaping carries less risk than smoking tobacco. Thus, it would be a good thing if smokers used them instead of tobacco.”
The tension around vaping comes from the concern that advertising products could attract young people to use them, with some reports mainly from the USA suggesting that companies are actively trying to market the products at teenagers.
However Mr Oates said the evidence does not support fears that young people have started vaping in large numbers if they were non-smokers to begin with.
A scientific study published in 2020 looking at vaping among young people in England, Wales and Scotland, found that “experimental use of e-cigarettes has become more prevalent than experimentation with tobacco, though regular use has to date been limited, primarily occurring among smokers”
It added: “Public health communities therefore face a challenging balance of regulating sufficiently to prevent harms to young people, while not making e-cigarettes unattractive or inaccessible as an alternative for smokers.”
Mr Oates continued: “The Scottish government is applying flawed logic at a time when Scotland has the highest smoking rates in the UK.
“Instead of putting restrictions on smokers being informed about vaping, the Scottish Government should be telling smokers about the merits of choosing to switch to a product that is 95% percent safer and that will have an immediate health benefit.
“Another significant factor is cost. Just last year Cancer Research UK stated ‘smoking costs more than two and a half times as much as using e-cigarettes’. So vaping instead of smoking increases household disposable incomes and reduces poverty.
“In the face of overwhelming evidence to support the promotion of vaping on health grounds, the SNP position is to ban it from being advertised on bus stops in case it harms children. It is madness.”
He urged people to respond to the consultation before it closes on April 28.
Sheila Duffy, Chief Executive of Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) Scotland welcomed the consultation this week.
She said: “Promoting novel products is one way in which the tobacco industry is seeking to reach current and future generations of potential consumers.
“Nicotine is highly addictive, and these are age-restricted products for good reason. They are not harmless. Curbing the advertising and promotions of recreational nicotine and tobacco products like these is vital to protect youngsters from being encouraged to experiment.
“We welcome the Scottish Government’s proposals for important precautionary steps to curb the promotion of vape products to protect Scotland’s health.”
Maree Todd, Minister for Public Health, said: “Although smoking rates are falling in all our communities, we are aware that the emergence of vaping products, including electronic cigarettes, as an alternative to tobacco are a concern.
“The full impact of their long-term use is not yet known and could have a negative impact on public health in years to come.
“Reducing exposure to the advertising and promotion of vape products is the best way to protect non-smokers, young people and children from being enticed to experiment with these products.
“Vaping products should only be used as a tool to help people stop smoking tobacco. They are not a lifestyle accessory.
“We appreciate that the ‘We Vape’ campaign group will not support these actions as they have already attacked the World Health Organization’s (WHO) view that electronic nicotine delivery systems are potentially harmful, and must be better regulated.
“Once the consultation has ended, we will analyse the responses before proposing any changes to the current regulations.”