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Signing a petition for change? Don’t expect that to affect UK tobacco policy

It looks like nicotine pouches are gearing up to be the new tobacco alternatives battleground – as TobaccoIntelligence previously predicted.

New opposition to pouches has sprung up, with the US – inevitably – taking an extreme lead. So far, political statements have largely been met with criticism veering on derision, while lawsuits, at first glance, could be called frivolous.

But that’s also how criticism of Juul started, and look how that ended up. So this could be the very thin end of the wedge.

And given that panic over youth use of e-cigarettes has made it to the UK (even if the jury is still out on whether it actually is a problem worth addressing in terms of public health), it could be that pouches are the next area in which politicians can flex their political muscles and pander to the crowd by taking a strong line.

If the UK government does crack down on nicotine pouches, do not expect any petitions to sway tobacco control policy. In the sphere of vaping, all such efforts have so far fallen on deaf ears.

It should be noted that vaping enjoys a significantly higher degree of support and fanatical advocacy than nicotine pouches, and the reasons are interesting enough to explore on their own in a separate blog. But suffice to say vaping support has traditionally been more grassroots-driven than that for pouches, which have been the domain of major corporations their entire existence and are now almost entirely under the purview of Big Tobacco.

This means that any popular effort to sway UK government opinion on vaping is likely to have more general support than the equivalent for pouches.

 

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    The vaping petition that won’t have a knock-on effect

     

    The latest vaping-related endeavour is a petition with more than 40,000 signatures (and counting) that asks the UK government not to ban non-tobacco flavours in e-liquids. This follows on from several other fairly popular petitions on vaping, including ones to declare vape shops essential retailers during the Covid lockdown and to not impose the EU Tobacco Products Directive (TPD) regulations restricting nicotine content and tank size in the UK.

    Neither of these past petitions succeeded in directly influencing government policy, and this latest one, no matter how popular it becomes, has no chance of doing so either.

    In fact, in the current iteration of the e-petition website, set up by the UK coalition government in 2011, there have been exactly zero petitions that have achieved any change in government policy whatsoever. Nada. Nought. Zilch. Not one has seen any reversal of course on any subject.

    So the future of pouch regulation in the UK will be whatever the government wants it to be, no matter what the general populace thinks. Petitions will not change this, and it is hardly going to be the sort of issue that would keep marginal-seat members of Parliament up at night worrying. And with a Labour government expected to take power soon, the proposition of even further regulatory restrictions looks likely.

    – Freddie Dawson TobaccoIntelligence staff

    Photo: Kelly Sikkema

    Freddie Dawson

    Managing editor, news
    Freddie studied at King’s College, London and City University and worked for publications including The Times, The Malay Mail, PathfinderBuzz and Solar Summary before joining the ECigIntelligence team. He has extensive experience in covering fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG), manufacturing and technological innovation.