Slash tax on e-cigarettes to prevent smoking deaths, say MPs
MPs are calling on the Government to slash taxes on e-cigarettes in a bid to reduce smoking-related deaths.
In a new report, the Science and Technology Committee has also suggested relaxing rules around advertising and lifting restrictions on electronic smoking devices in public spaces, including on public transport.
Committee Chair Norman Lamb said: "E-cigarettes are a proven stop smoking tool and, while uncertainties undoubtedly remain about their long-term health impact, failing to explore the use of e-cigarettes could lead to the continued use of conventional cigarettes—which currently kill around 79,000 people in England every year.
"Medically licensed e-cigarettes would make it easier for doctors to discuss and recommend them as a stop smoking tool to aid those quitting smoking. The approval systems for prescribing these products must be urgently reviewed."
According to Public Health England e-cigarettes are 95% safer than smoking.
Concerns have been raised, however, that their use could become a gateway to smoking tobacco – particularly among children.
Mr Lamb dismissed those claims though, telling the Guardian that the argument "just doesn’t hold water" with current data showing that while children do try e-cigerattes "the numbers that continue are tiny".
The former health minister also stressed the importance of reducing smoking among people with mental health problems, whose smoking rates - at about 40% - are higher than the rest of the population.
He said: "It is really shocking that a third of mental health trusts within our NHS ban e-cigarettes.
"When people are patients, it is a golden opportunity to influence behaviour, yet our NHS is failing to follow the evidence…
Mr Lamb added: "Smoking remains a national health crisis and the government should be considering innovative ways of reducing the smoking rate.
"E-cigarettes are less harmful than conventional cigarettes, but current policy and regulations do not sufficiently reflect this and businesses, transport providers and public places should stop viewing conventional and e-cigarettes as one and the same. There is no public health rationale for doing so."