Dame Andrea Leadsom, Under Secretary of State for Health and Social Care in the British Parliament, said that the British government believes that e-cigarettes are an important tool to help adults quit smoking, and the British delegation will attend the 10th United Nations Conference This position was raised at the Climate Change Conference.
On January 18, Leadsom was speaking in a backbench debate organized by MP Andrew Lewer to reveal what position the government would take at COP10 (the 10th Conference of the Parties to the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control). , which will be held in Panama from February 5th to 10th.
Low and others who spoke at the debate fear COP 10 could decide to create equivalence in the regulation of combustible cigarettes and low-risk products, undermining the UK's successful strategy of using e-cigarettes to help smokers quit. Their concerns were heightened because they had previously been unable to obtain information from the government about who would be traveling to Panama as part of the British delegation and what position they would take.
Leadsom said the British delegation would be led by Jeanelle de Gruchy, the country's deputy chief medical officer, but she gave only a rough outline of the country's position. When talking about the discussion on the progress of global tobacco control, she said that the UK is an outsider on the topic of e-cigarettes and that the UK will put forward its position that e-cigarettes are a very important tool to help adults quit smoking. The UK government will welcome other parties to go further on tobacco control, but it will monitor negotiations to ensure "nothing becomes mandatory".
Leadsom also said that different parties have taken different approaches to new and emerging tobacco products. Currently, the UK is still concerned about the issue of heated tobacco, so the UK delegation will be in listening mode on that front.
She said the UK had no plans to impose further restrictions on advertising and sponsorship and said the UK would press against increasing its contribution to the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control.
This last point is likely to be in response to concerns expressed by some during the debate that, despite being a major contributor to the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, the UK appears to lack confidence in its approach to the tobacco COP. It has been argued that British taxpayers could end up footing the bill for policies that go against their interests.
This may be a matter of concern because the debate never takes seriously the question of how COP proposals could be blocked by individual Parties and, if they are not blocked, whether they are binding on all Parties. The latter issue is currently less of a concern due to the UK government's lax approach to complying with international agreements and laws, but it could become a bigger issue if the current government is replaced during this election year.