New Clause 14 - Application of the Part I of the Health Act 2006 to vaping

Part of Tobacco and Vapes Bill – in a Public Bill Committee am 3:15 pm ar 14 Mai 2024.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Andrea Leadsom Andrea Leadsom The Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Health and Social Care 3:15, 14 Mai 2024

I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Copeland for moving the new clause tabled by our hon. Friend the Member for Sleaford and North Hykeham. I think all hon. Members are keen to see much more evidence on this issue, and I absolutely share that concern. I have urgently commissioned research into the impact of vaping on both the vaper and those second-hand breathers-in. As we all heard during the public evidence sessions, and as my hon. Friend the Member for East Kilbride, Strathaven and Lesmahagow set out, we do not have the evidence. We therefore need to provide evidence-based regulation as a matter of urgency, and I absolutely assure hon. Members that that will be forthcoming.

It is certainly the case that the ban on smoking in indoor spaces has been a great public health success story since its introduction in England in 2007 and across the UK from 2006. There is no doubt that the ban has protected many adults and so many children from the harms of passive smoking; it will have saved lives.

We know that vaping is less harmful than smoking, and indeed is a very effective quit aid for adult smokers. Although I have grave concerns about whether we err too far on the side of saying “Vaping is much better than smoking,” and are therefore inadvertently saying to young people that it is fine to vape, which of course it is not, that is why we also always say, “If you don’t smoke, don’t vape, and children should never vape.”

Although smoking in a public place may be seen as a nuisance by some, and there is some evidence that it can trigger asthma attacks, in the same way that pollution or car exhaust fumes can, there is very limited evidence of the potential harms of vaping in enclosed spaces, and simply none to suggest that it is at all similar to tobacco smoking. Vapes emit vapour, not harmful tobacco smoke. Vaping does not burn tobacco or produce tar and carbon monoxide—two of the most harmful elements in tobacco smoke. Evidence of the harm from exposure to second-hand tobacco smoke is well established, and because of its carcinogenic content, there is no safe level of exposure. It is totally incomparable to vaping, where there is very little evidence to suggest that second-hand vapour is anything more than an irritant. I repeat: that is not to say that vaping is good for anyone or a good thing to try. It absolutely is not. We know it is extremely harmful to children, whose lungs and brains are still developing.

In addition, many businesses, venues and spaces have already introduced their own bans on the use of vapes where smoking is prohibited, such as on public transport, on work premises and in many restaurants and bars. In 2016, Public Health England produced guidance regarding the use of vapes in public places and workplaces, which has helped businesses to make informed decisions on their vape-free policies, but given the lack of evidence of any harm from second-hand vapour and the way that the majority of businesses, restaurants and bars self-regulate and have vape-free policies in place, as well as the fact that vaping in enclosed spaces was not raised in our call for evidence as a major issue to address youth vaping, we just do not feel that the new clause is necessary at this time.

We will of course keep this under review and continue to monitor the evidence base. As I said, I have urgently commissioned proper research into the effects in the short, medium and long terms, and I hope to make further announcements on exactly what I am doing during the Bill’s passage.