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0:00 - Intro with Joanna Junak
0:32 - Martin Cullip on the latest guidance from Action on Smoking and Health
9:14 - James Dunworth on the disposable vape devices
13:05 - Closing remarks


Hello and welcome, I’m Joanna Junak and this is GFN News on GFN.TV. In today’s programme, Martin Cullip will summarise the latest guidance from Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) and James Dunworth will tell us more about the disposable vape devices which have become very popular in the UK. In the UK last month ASH issued a briefing paper on youth vaping designed for public health officials and trading standards officers. We asked Martin Cullip International Fellow at the Taxpayers Protection Alliance Consumer Centre a few questions about this paper. Thank you, Martin, for joining us. Can you tell us why ASH has issued this short briefing?

Martin: Ash Ashe said that they wanted to educate schools primarily about the news on news vaping because there have been a lot of recent stories in the newspapers that were quite alarmist talking about an epidemic of youth vaping. And this was going to be a catastrophe for public health. And it was unusual, really, for a public health authority like Ash to come out to be so forthright about it and say that this wasn't the case, that vaping amongst youth is still very low, and that there wasn't anything to panic about. But the briefing gave lots of guidance of what schools should do, what other institutions should do when faced with young people vaping. And one of the things that stood out for me was they said, have you worked out, have you asked them if they are currently smoking? Because obviously that is a different form of treatment that you'd want to direct towards the youth involved. If they're a smoker, it completely changes the dynamic. And it was an important distinction to draw, really, because if you look into the report that Ash came out with earlier this year on youth vaping, which caused a lot of these headlines.

Joanna: In the briefing we are reading that vaping is not risk free but it’s much less harmful than smoking. How can young people and those who have never smoked be discouraged from using vaping products?

Martin: Well, I often say that I think the difference between here and America is that we don't glare sensationalise vaping in this country. I often say we can buy my local Sainsbury with supermarket. You can buy vaping products in the health aisle next to plasters and toothpaste. And there's nothing really rebellious to a youth about something that's sold in the health art because kids will rebel and they will try and shock and experiment with things that they're not supposed to have. And I think the best way, really, is just not to make a great big fuss about it. You've also got to bear in mind that the percentage of using alcohol, taking drugs and other very harmful practises is much higher in some cases than vaping. Vaping is a fairly minor concern when compared with other threats to youth in the country.

Joanna: So, how about advertisements and other promotions of vaping products. Should advertising and promotions be regulated, to discourage young people from vaping?

Martin: Well, that's the balance that has to be made, I think in Scotland currently consulting on bringing in all sorts of restrictions on packaging and flavours, which is what other countries unfortunately are doing. But there is a balance on this because you don't want to deter adult smokers from switching to vacant products. I think it's probably fair to say that anyone using cartoon characters have been a bit irresponsible in their marketing, but we don't want to really throw the baby out of the bar for to, really. So I hope if they do come up with any sort of measures along those lines, that they are very mild measures and they take into account that most adult vapours like fruit flavours ashes. Last survey on Ecigarette use in Britain came out with fruit flavours with the most popular flavours at 41% of adult smokers or adult vapours. So they're obviously very attractive to adults. They're not, as some would say, just created to attract children. IV ate fruit flavours myself and I'm in my 50s. It's a balance to be set and I hope they don't let this classic moral panic sway them too much and go too far and ruin the appeal of vaping to adult smokers.

Joanna: According to the ASH briefing some young people are both vaping and smoking. Is this a big problem in the UK?

Martin: Yeah. I think this is something that has fueled some of this panic. I read recently in a comment section for a newspaper article where Ash were quoted and saying, look, this isn't as bad as many are making out, saying, I just don't believe it, I see children vaping everywhere. Well, you may see youngsters vaping, but how do you know if they weren't smoking beforehand or that they were former smokers? You don't know that. So it's something that many people will perhaps see. But would they prefer them to be smoking rather than Vaping? I don't think so.

Joanna: ASH pointed out that children who grow up in homes where parents smoke or vape are more likely to smoke or vape themselves. Do you agree with this statement?

Martin: Yes. It's been known for decades that one of the main drivers of youth smoking, or youth taking up smoking, is if their parents or their family friends smoke. It's almost a learning behaviour, if you like. So it's quite encouraging that the moment we're getting smoking rate amongst you is still declining. It's down to 3%. I understand that people regularly smoke under 18, so maybe the fact that more adults are using vaping products, it's just been announced that there's 4.3 million in the UK now is denormalizing smoking among families and friends of young people. So rather than seeing people smoking and taking out smoking, perhaps they're seeing people vape and taking out vaping, which is a public health win, really, at the end of the day. I mean, obviously they shouldn't be using either. It's probably not best for them to take up nicotine at all if they're not dependent on it currently. But if they're going to take up one of the other, it's probably best to take up vaping. And so we're seeing smoking among young people slowly dying out, which can only be a good thing.

Joanna: Do you think the fruit flavours in some e-liquids are encouraging young people to vape?

Martin: I don't know. I think I've read that they mostly get them from friends, so you're always going to have someone who's able to get hold of this. But the same as if with alcohol. Young people are not meant to be buying alcohol, but they still get hold of it somehow. Kids will always be kids. That's what they did when I was a kid. And when my parents and grandparents were kids, they were probably doing the same sort of thing, getting hold of things that they weren't legally able to buy. So I'm not sure it's particularly online sales, but I think if you're using online marketplaces and you have to use a card, so if you've got a credit card, not normally, you have to be of age to have one. So I don't know, perhaps there could be better security on some websites. But I think they do their bit and they try their best. And like I said, most of these products, the kids are going to get hold of them anyway from friends and older kids.

Joanna: Thank you, Martin. ASH also pointed out that disposable vaping products, such as Elf and Geek bar have become very popular in the UK. We asked James Dunworth, chairman of E-Cigarette Direct, author of the Ashtray Blog and steering committee member of the Independent British Vape Trade Association to comment on these findings. Thank you, James, for joining us. First, can you show us what a disposable vape device looks like?

James: Okay, so there are some device which you can see here. This is one called the loss mary, which contain a liquid rate and the coil and a pod at the end which contains e-liquid. They are usually all in one and you can't usually take them apart, although some manufacturers, such as unicorn now, I believe, are designing devices which can be taken apart with the idea that you will be able to recycle the separate components.

Joanna: So, why have they become so popular in the UK?

James: it's a good question, because disposable devices have been around for many years and they haven't really taken off until recently. I think what we have are several factors coming together at the same time. So first, the devices themselves have improved. You've got some strong flavours, often very sweet, which seem to appeal to a lot of people. But the vapor has also improved as well. So you're getting soft, but good throat hits and plenty of vapor. And in fact, the Vapor experience has improved so much that it's appealing to a lot of people who have traditionally used reusable devices. So what you're seeing now is a lot of people might use mods or pod devices actually using these side by side, so sometimes they use mods and sometimes and sometimes they use these disposable devices. So they're not just appealing to people who are new to baking, they're also appealing to people who've paid before. I also think that what you have now is extension of the convenience culture in the UK. And you can see this across different sectors. So now if you go into a shop now, you've got lots of pre peeled vegetables, everything is made to be as easy as possible to use and to save us time. And I think that's what you're seeing here, where people don't want to spend the time to change the coils and refill the e-liquid, which is strange, right, because it doesn't take long. I mean, to refill a tank or a positive e-liquid usually takes seconds and the cost saving is quite significant. And then there are a lot of vape shops explain to people, come in about the cost saving and about the damage that these devices do to the environment. But the urge for speed and convenience is so strong now that it seems to overcome that minor inconvenience. Finally, I think that a lot of people are using these devices at times when it might be difficult to use a rechargeable devices. So we see a lot of people buying them when they go to nightclubs, when they're going out for the day, they go to the beach or they go to festivals or they go on holiday. And an example I was talking about the other day was an experience based on who likes going to festivals, and he said until disposable devices came along, he'd actually take cigarettes with him. And then when he was at a festival, he would smoke because it was too difficult to charge up his device. But now that they have the disposable devices, he's actually taking those along and using them instead.

Joanna: Thank you James. That’s all for today. Tune in next time, here on GFN TV or on our new podcast, for more tobacco harm reduction updates. And on Thursday’s episode Dr. Phindile Shangase and consumer advocate Kurt Yeo will discuss tobacco harm reduction in South Africa and the impact of the coming excise tax on nicotine vapes. Thanks for watching - or listening! See you next time.