Leaving the European Union opens up new opportunities for tobacco policy reform and an increased focus on tobacco harm reduction in the UK, untrammeled by the constraints of EU law –on which UK law has been previously been based.
Branston, Arnott, and Gallagher (2020) ’s partial analysis of post- Brexit opportunities for tobacco control focuses on protecting or en- hancing taxation and regulation measures, and significantly ignores in- centives to help people to switch from smoking by using safer nicotine products.
Overlooking the opportunities for tobacco harm reduction using safer nicotine products is odd, given that the authors should be aware that the government has stated in the 2017 Tobacco Control Plan for England that “we will look to identify where we can sensibly deregulate without harming public health or where EU regulations limit our ability to deal with tobacco.
In particular, the government will assess re- cent legislation such as the Tobacco Products Directive, including as it applies to e-cigarettes, and consider where the UK’s exit provides an opportunity to alter the legislative provisions to provide for improved health outcomes within the UK context ”( Department of Health, 2017 ).
This review of the UK Tobacco and Related Product Regulations of 2016 will be completed by May 2021 ( House of Commons, 2020 ). In particular, leaving the EU brings the possibility of reversing anti- harm reduction legislation within the EU Tobacco Products Directive by legalizing the sale of the oral tobacco snus, for which there is decades of large-scale epidemiological evidence regarding its safety as compared with tobacco smoking.
There is also an opportunity to depart from un-evidenced regulation of e-cigarettes, including limits on nicotine concentrations and device size. UK-based consumer group the New Nicotine Alliance has set out a 10-point plan to improve access to safer nicotine products and promote individual and public health ( New Nicotine Alliance, 2020) .
My organization’s recent report Burning Issues: The Global State of Tobacco Harm Reduction has made a number of recommendations on appropriate regulation of safer nicotine products to facilitate improved public health ( Shapiro, 2020 ).
Author links open overlay panel – Gerry V.Stimson – International Journal of Drug Policy – February 1, 2021.