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By Brian Monteith – 3 minute read

LATER THIS YEAR the UK Government will have the opportunity on the world stage to stand up for our sovereignty and show the world the progress it has made towards reaching its smokefree 2030 target. 

In November, a UK delegation will attend the 10th meeting of the World Health Organisation’s Conference of the Parties on the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (COP10). The outcome of COP10 will set an international position on tobacco control measures for signatories of the convention, which the UK is part of.

If unchallenged, COP10 will lay the foundations in the UK for implementing increasingly harsher measures around less harmful alternatives, such as vapes, which will punish smokers who are trying to quit and lead healthier lives – potentially undoing any progress the UK has made towards being smokefree. 

At a time when NHS finite resources are stretched, the UK must be a vocal champion of tobacco harm reduction. Smoking related diseases are one of the biggest causes of preventable deaths in the UK and costs billions of pounds in NHS resources – causing delayed waiting times and significant backlogs for millions of people around the country wanting to access the NHS. 

If the UK is to reach its smokefree goals, it must embrace harm reduction alternatives as genuine cessation tools that can help smokers lead healthier lives through quitting and or switching to less harmful products.

Harm reduction alternatives – such as vapes, heated tobacco and nicotine pouches – can play a part in this solution. These innovative and science-driven technologies enable smokers to choose healthier behaviours for themselves, while at the same time helping to alleviate NHS pressures by freeing up resources that would be otherwise used to treat smoking-related diseases. 

With Brexit behind us, the UK is unshackled from having to tow the EU line at COP, it should stand up as a champion to alternatives to cigarettes and stand up for the country’s science led approach.  

It is critical the UK sets its own position on tobacco control and does not capitulate to foreign powers, like Russia and China, who use these international platforms as ways to exert their influence over and bind other countries to their favoured positions. The UK needs to stand up, be a world leader and empower smokers to adopt healthier lifestyles, whereby enabling the UK to stand up for its sovereignty and take hold of this Brexit benefit.

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Brian Monteith has worked in public relations for forty years, initially in the City, then Scotland and finally as an international consultant in Africa, the Caribbean and South Asia. A former member of the European and Scottish parliaments, he is Director of Communications at Global Britain and editor of ThinkScotland.org.

Photo by Ruslan Alekso from Unsplash

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