Broughton Chief Regulatory Officer, Dr. Nveed Chaudhary, discusses the global challenges the ENDS industry faces to achieve a smoke-free future.
In recent weeks, UK regional authorities have stepped up their contributions to the government’s target to make Britain smoke-free by 2030. Five councils in the north of England – Manchester City, Northumberland, Newcastle, Durham, and North Tyneside – have issued bans on smoking outside pubs and restaurants, while a sixth, North Oxfordshire, has vowed to make the area smoke-free five years earlier than the national goal, in 2025.
The government’s pledge aims to ensure that less than five percent of the population in Britain is a smoker within the next nine years, but this is only likely to become a reality if there are adequate next-generation nicotine products (NGPs) on the market – such as e-cigarettes, heated tobacco, and oral nicotine pouches – for smokers to switch to.
Some progress is already being made in this area. Over the last 35 years, smoking rates in Britain have halved. In total, around 6.3 percent of the adult population in Great Britain uses e-cigarettes, amounting to 3.2 million people, with 58.9 percent being ex-smokers.
And this isn’t just something that’s happening in the UK; becoming smoke-free is a target globally, with different tactics in place to achieve the same outcome. In China, for example, the government has set targets to keep its smoking rate among young people above 15 years old under 24.5 percent by 2022, and 20 percent by 2030. In Australia, annual increases to the tobacco excise tax of 12.5 percent have been applied for several years, taking the cost of a packet of cigarettes to more than $45, or £25. In fact, 5 billion people now live in countries that have introduced smoking bans, graphic warnings on packaging, and other effective tobacco control measures, which is four times more than a decade ago. But while alternative NGPs offer a potentially healthier and safer alternative to smoking, the increasing use of these popular products is posing another challenge – the protection of our global environment.
Though there are targets in place to increase plastic recycling in the UK and across Europe by 2030 – perfectly coinciding with the same timeframes to create a smoke-free population – an increase in the use of NGPs could present a hurdle in this journey, due to the potential upsurge in the use of single-use plastics.
Several elements of electronic NGPs, like pods and cartridges, can’t be recycled along with other plastic waste because they contain nicotine. Many NGP devices contain circuit boards containing plastics and heavy metals, whilst the batteries which are made of lithium-ion are harmful to the planet and require complex recycling processes. The plastics used within NGPs do contribute to the long-established challenges of breaking down microplastics that can harm our ecosystems, and as such, any increase in their usage will impact the country’s wider environmental targets.
As an industry we need to overcome this, however, it is going to require an overhaul of the design, manufacture, and production of NGPs, and will rely on increased collaboration at every level of the existing supply chain to meet a shared target of developing a more sustainable industry. Doing so will ensure major advances can be made in the sector which will provide the opportunity to actively contribute to green ambitions, rather than being seen as a detriment. And if close attention is paid to this future environmental catastrophe now, we’ll be able to stop this trend in its tracks before it takes hold. We know this because it’s already happening elsewhere.
Plastics lose about 95 percent of their value as a material after a single use, but in Edinburgh, researchers have developed a series of enzymes and genetically engineered bacteria powerful enough to break down plastic bottles and convert them into vanilla flavouring for use in the food and cosmetics industry. Demand for vanilla flavouring currently outweighs supply from natural vanilla beans, so this outcome won’t only help to ensure less plastic is entering landfills and our oceans, but will directly solve a major, global farming and production crisis. The opportunity to potentially create a closed-loop system specifically for this raw material in the NGP sector is obvious.
Total Harm Reduction
Thus far, the focus of reducing harm to smokers has ignored the harm these products can cause to the environment. So, we’re looking to work closely with NGP manufacturers to help accelerate a new generation of products to market which is developed via sustainable materials and partnerships to achieve Total Harm Reduction, rather than simply Tobacco Harm Reduction – helping smokers to quit while protecting our environment and future generations. The onus is on our industry to work innovatively to not only meet regulatory obligations regarding smoking but help shape it in line with green targets. Doing so will create greater future market value and will place the industry at the centre of a strategy that puts both people and the planet first.
To find out how you can get involved contact us to arrange a meeting.
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Broughton have deep CRO capabilities and an experienced team of scientific and regulatory professionals to manage full service global regulatory projects. Our knowledge of global regulatory pathways offers significant insights that can be incorporated into your project plans. Our mission is to accelerate safer nicotine-delivery products to market; advancing a smoke-free future.
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