The Department of Health and Social Care has published its findings on the post-implementation review of the Tobacco and Related Products Regulations 2016 (TRPR) as required under the Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Act 2015.
The review seeks to understand whether the legislation has been effective in protecting people from the harm of tobacco and whether protection could be achieved by other less onerous regulatory provisions to reduce the burden on business.
What this Means Going Forward
Following the conclusion of the review, the Government will no doubt be considering some of the suggested changes going forward and considering its approach in light of its Smokefree 2030 ambition. For those in the industry, businesses will be eagerly awaiting any decisions taken by the Government in relation to the restrictions on e-cigarettes and whether the government will take this opportunity to reduce restrictions on advertising of the health benefits compared with smoking. Equally, any changes to the regulation of novel nicotine products is likely to be welcomed by leading manufacturers in order to ensure customer safety and maintain high standards across the industry.
- The report concludes that the TRPR has met its original objectives and no better solution could be achieved through alternative regulatory measures. However, it notes that there are other areas where the Government may consider future action. Any changes will be carefully considered by the Government to help support its Smokefree 2030 ambition.
- One of the key findings that will be of interest to [those operating within] the industry relates to electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes). The report notes that while advertising restrictions on e-cigarettes were discouraging use amongst young people, their packaging makes them attractive, particularly to young people.
- Responses regarding e-cigarettes were mixed, with some arguing that tank and refill bottle sizes should be bigger and some suggesting the permitted nicotine strength in e-cigarettes should be increased to assist smokers switching to e-cigarettes only.
- It also suggested that the Government should increase awareness of the health benefits of switching to e-cigarettes by reducing the restrictions on advertising those benefits.
- The consultation responses reflected split opinions about the regulations on novel tobacco products with roughly equal numbers suggesting that the regulations should be relaxed against those advocating that the higher restrictions applicable to tobacco should apply to novel products.
The TRPR introduced new product and labelling requirements including warnings for e-cigarettes and restrictions on advertising of e-cigarettes. The report considers whether these restrictions have been effective in discouraging young people from using e-cigarettes.
As part of the consultation, a number of questions were asked and responses requested. Among those who felt the regulations were too severe, the consensus was that both tank and refill bottle sizes should be bigger as they were an inconvenient size. Some also suggested the permitted nicotine strength of e-cigarettes should be increased to help smokers switch to e-cigarettes.
Responses argued that restrictions on advertising should be relaxed to increase awareness of the positive health benefits of switching. The report notes that TRPR requirements for warning messages may deter smokers from switching to e-cigarettes.
By contrast, there were a small number among those responding who felt that regulations should be stricter to prevent young people from taking up smoking e-cigarettes in the first place. It was suggested that the attractive packaging encourages young people to use e-cigarettes and that the permitted nicotine strength should be decreased.
Despite the current restrictions on e-cigarettes, the report notes that there was an overall increase in young people reporting noticing e-cigarette promotions between 2017 and 2019 through permitted channels.
By contrast, among adults (those aged 18 and over) who currently or formerly smoked or vaped, there was a significant decrease in noticing e-cigarette marketing on television, radio, posters, billboards, newspapers and magazines between 2016 and 2018 in England.
The report comments on other novel nicotine products (tobacco-free and therefore outside the ambit of TRPR) which have appeared on the UK market over the past few years. It notes that there has been criticism that the TRPR should widen its scope and include these products under its framework. The report argues that this would protect consumers by improving standards and customer safety and build more confidence in those moving to these products from smoking to assist in quitting.
These products are currently not within the remit of the TRPR and instead are regulated under the General Product Safety Regulations 2005. The Government will consider this and has asked the Committee on Toxicity to consider the toxicological risks from tobacco-free oral nicotine pouches during its 2021/22 work programme.