Broughton's Chief Scientific and Regulatory Officer Dr. Nveed Chaudhary discusses how England is leading the way internationally in terms of promoting the relative health benefits of alternative nicotine products while questioning whether they are going far enough.
A survey released earlier this year found that a growing number of English local authorities are offering e-cigarettes to smokers to help them quit smoking.
How committed are English local authorities to tobacco control?
The survey carried out by Cancer Research UK and Action on Smoking and Health found that 40% of English authorities now offer e-cigarettes in some form as part of their stop smoking services. A further 15% are planning to do so in the near future.
Given that England’s population is around 56 million and around 15% of these are smokers, that’s just over 3 million smokers who are currently being offered a less harmful nicotine product to aid quitting. Surely, this is to be applauded. England and the wider UK are currently unique in the way that they are supporting e-cigarettes as a stop smoking solution, with support being shown by all parties involved, including the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), the NHS, and local authorities.
However, the same report also shared that tobacco control appears as the second-lowest priority in a list of six public health issues by most of the authorities surveyed. It came after obesity, drugs, alcohol, and sexual health, and only topped gambling. Whilst many of these you might argue are preventable health issues, I’d argue that health problems caused by smoking are one of the most preventable.
Encouraging more smokers to quit would dramatically reduce instances of conditions such as lung cancer and chronic bronchitis. The potential healthcare cost savings to the NHS are obvious – not to mention the number of lives saved. Measures could be put into law to support this move, however, might the potential loss of duty-generated revenue be preventing this positive move?
What needs to happen before 2030?
Britain has a target to be smoke-free by 2030. Whilst the support shown by English local authorities for alternative nicotine-delivery products is positive, it is not enough. To meet that target, one thing needs to change dramatically. Perception.
Misguided public opinion is promoted by the media by inaccurate reporting of the science that nicotine is the issue. Emphasis is placed on smoking equalling nicotine, and nicotine equalling bad health. This is not the case.
Smoke-free will never be achieved unless communications messages change to be more like those used for Net-Zero campaigns. For example, most people understand that traveling from A to B in an electric car is more environmentally friendly than traveling in a petrol or diesel-powered car. Reaching the intended destination is the desired outcome and using an electric vehicle is the greenest way to do that. Likewise, it would be good if most smokers understood that less harmful nicotine delivery is the desired outcome of electronic nicotine devices like e-cigarettes. Just as with the shift from petrol to electric cars, innovation is providing an improved delivery system that has the potential to help society. The industry and regulators need to make more evidence-based information available about the opportunity to change the mode of nicotine delivery just as they do with electric cars.
Meanwhile, manufacturers of these alternative nicotine products should demonstrate their commitment to e-cigarettes as a stop smoking solution by utilizing the MHRA’s medicinal pathway for higher nicotine products. Companies that are willing to invest in the medical applications of higher strength products and offer a complete off-ramping journey from high to low nicotine concentrations are the ones that are likely to have the most significant impact on public health. Many smokers find that 20mg is just not enough to enable them to switch. Several studies carried out in the US show that smokers start their journey off-ramping from combustible tobacco more effectively with the option to start at 50mg and then gradually reduce that to 45mg, 40mg, all the way down to 20mg, with the support of the medical community.
Let’s bring together best practices across the world to make this happen.
We need you
My call to action is that everyone involved in the tobacco sector needs to come together to fund a public communications campaign with one key message.
It’s not the nicotine that’s the problem, it’s combustibles.
We need to reduce misinformation and create behavior change, by influencing both consumers and regulators.
Let’s not wait for others to do it. Collectively we have the knowledge, evidence, influence, and skills to make a difference and work towards achieving a smoke-free future by 2030.
Excited and keen to change the narrative? Contact us to book a meeting and let’s discuss how together we can advance a smoke-free future.
If you would like to learn more about regulatory pathways and how they create new business opportunities for forward-looking companies, then read our recent Regulatory Digest below:
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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; creating a smoke-free future.
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