Yesterday I attended the UKVIA reception at the House of Commons to launch this year's VApril campaign. It was a drizzly arrival at Parliament, but was soon brightened by seeing so many old friends and colleagues that I've gotten to know over the last 17 years in the industry.
John Dunne, Director General of UK VIA, provided the opening address, and pointed to the fact that VApril is all about raising awareness of vaping and the benefits of switching from smoking combustible cigarettes.
What dawned on me, however, was that this year, VApril comes amid a flurry of issues raised about vaping in the UK. Increases in youth use of e-cigarettes, especially disposables, e-cigarettes being sold in shops that are not compliant with the TRPR regulations, and unfounded sensationalist click-bait headlines indicating, with no true scientific basis, that vaping is more dangerous than smoking.
The right honorable MP Adam Afriyie, vice chair of the all-party parliamentary committee on Vaping addressed the reception. He acknowledged that the industry had made massive strides in improving public health - but he also warned - we are arriving at an inflection point. The industry must ensure that the few bad players do not decimate the industry through their actions. Products must be compliant with the regulations, and action must be taken to ensure that sales to youth are eliminated. If either of these two phenomena persists, there is a real danger that the industry may become so regulated only a few players will remain; worse still, some or all of these product categories may be banned.
To coincide with VApril, the UKVIA launched, a paper "Accelerating the Prevention of Underage and Illicit Sales of Vapes in the UK ." This outlines the framework for what could be done to introduce a degree of additional regulation around e-cigarettes. It's a start, but we need to move further, and faster.
VApril, gives us the opportunity to convince smokers to switch to vaping. Let's also use VApril for us all to take a good hard look at ourselves as an industry. What can we do that ensures we protect the integrity of the industry and continue to provide smokers with the opportunities to stop smoking.