E-cigarettes are the most popular smoking cessation aid in England Photo: iStock

Pharmacists already sell nicotine products quite happily as smoking cessation aids, while a few have embraced vaping despite opposition from pharmacy bodies. One of the panel discussions explored what the path ahead for vaping looked like, including obstacles and bumps in the road.

There is still opposition to vaping from pharmacy bodies, for example, on the basis of nicotine addiction – but pharmacists already sell nicotine products quite happily as smoking cessation aids.

The Royal Pharmaceutical Society acknowledges that “sale of e-cigarettes in pharmacies is becoming more prevalent.” However, it explains that “there is an ethical dilemma supporting the sale of products owned and promoted by tobacco manufacturers.”

John Dunne, Director of the UK Vaping Industry Association, remarked that nicotine is no more addictive than the caffeine we drink in coffee. “What we do know is that nicotine does not cause cancer and that’s what we should focus on, although it’s not a message the media wants to hear – they want to focus on a youth epidemic which we actually don’t have in this country.”

John added that unlike its critics vape manufacturers are restricted in what they are allowed to say about the products, although as a trade body the UKVIA enjoys freedom, and has been pressing the case for vape.

“When we started it was very hard, there was a lot of resistance because people didn’t know much about it,” Sandy Chadha, CEO of Supreme Imports Ltd, which makes 88Vape. “But over the last two years those fears have pretty much gone away. We think there will be a decline in vaping stores and a move into mainstream Convenience, online and into supermarkets. The main fear of retailers now is pilferage,” he said, adding that although pods will grow in market share, “current smokers are poorer, so when they switch, they might go for the cheaper, open-tank method of vaping.”

Will Hill, Head of Legal and External Affairs, UK & Ireland, British American Tobacco UK Ltd (BAT) was optimistic, saying, “We all have to operate within the advertisement rules and the TPD, but what we’re all hopeful for is that if there is a Brexit, then that could release the UK from some of the restrictions imposed by Brussels.” Will said that no matter what, vaping was far healthier than smoking and should be freer in promoting itself.

Meanwhile, said Will, the NHS cost of smoking is around £4 billion per year while cigarette taxes are in the region of £12 billion; and while the decline in smoking might bring in less revenue for the government, it was unlikely to transfer taxes onto vaping, as vaping was something to encourage.

John Dunne agreed with this surmise, and on the whole the panel felt the government was unlikely, as things stand, to want to kill the goose laying golden vaping eggs.

The recent ban on vaping in San Francisco – while cigarettes and marijuana are permitted – was scorned by the panel, and a warning was sounded about remnant Welsh puritanism which appears to be mooting similar bans in the principality.

This article also appears in the August issue of Pharmacy Business.

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