Scotland Announces Generational Tobacco Ban Which Includes Vaping

Scotland Announces Generational Tobacco Ban Which Includes Vaping
Scotland Announces Generational Tobacco Ban Which Includes Vaping

Scotland is considering implementing a generational smoking ban which would prevent anyone born in 2009 or later (currently 14 or younger) from legally purchasing tobacco or vaping products. In response to the announcement, tobacco harm reduction (THR) experts are raising concerns about the potential unintended consequences of such a measure.

Michael Landl, Director of the World Vapers’ Alliance (WVA), said that while curbing smoking is crucial, extending the ban to vaping is problematic. Authorities need to differentiate between smoking and vaping and focus on enforcing existing laws effectively while addressing the reasons teenagers start smoking or vaping instead of adding another layer of prohibition.

Infact, delving deeper into this last point, studies have indicated that adolescents facing challenges like mental health issues and poor academic performance are more prone to vaping, with 51% citing anxiety relief as a motive. This pattern parallels findings related to smoking behavior.

The connection between stress and nicotine product use is complex and multifaceted, involving psychological, physiological, and behavioral factors. Nicotine acts as a psychoactive substance that, temporarily, eases stress by influencing neurotransmitter activity in the brain. This results in relaxation and an improved mood, leading to nicotine-containing products, including vapes, acting as a coping mechanism for stress.

Scotland’s proposed ban fails to differentaute between smoking and vaping

Nevertheless, subjecting smoking and vaping to the same regulations sends the wrong message about the different health risks of the products. Landl urges Scotland to align itself with the rest of the UK in embracing harm reduction and recognizing the unique role of vaping in smoking cessation.

The WVA calls on the Scottish Government to reconsider its approach and adopt policies that reflect the differences between smoking and vaping, emphasizing harm reduction and public health. Moreover, referring to failed prohibition attempts in the past, experts highlight that such measures tend to lead to massive black markets and contraband activities.

Interestingly, a 2022 YouGov survey had revealed that most Britons supported the idea of a tobacco ban for anyone born after 2008, similar to the one proposed in Scotland. Fifty-seven per cent of British people said they would support the legislation, while 34% said they would ‘strongly’ support it.

The UK’s own generational ban

In line with this, while discussing smoke-free generation plans at the 2023 Conservative Party Conference, earlier this year PM Rishi Sunak said that his party is proposing a generational tobacco ban which would ensure that “a 14-year-old today will never legally be sold a cigarette.”

Prime Minister Sunak highlighted that smoking would not be criminalized and the phased approach would mean that anyone who is currently able to purchase cigarettes legally, would always be able to. Therefore, he added, if the ban had to be signed into law, the only burden on older generations would be having to carry an ID when they want to purchase cigarettes.

On the otherhand, UK health authorities remain progressive with regards to the use of safer nicotine alternatives. In response to a report released last year by the UK’s Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) indicating the success of what is being called “a vaping revolution”, a number of THR groups and experts such as CAPHRA (Coalition of Asia Pacific Tobacco Harm Reduction Advocates), had highlighted that this success is a reason to follow in the UK’s example.

The ASH survey found that the majority of vapers are smokers who turned to the devices in order to quit smoking, with over 90% of vapers in the UK being either former or current smokers, while slightly over 8% being never smokers. This increase in vaping has meant that the number of smoking adults has dropped from 20% in 2011 to 14% in 2019. CAPHRA had highlighted that these numbers confirmed that the widespread international “scaremongering” about vaping is unfounded.

Meanwhile, New Zealand’s own tobacco generational ban which was introduced under the previous Jacinda Ardern-led government last year, has just been scrapped by the National party which won 38% of the vote in this year’s October 14th election.

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