6 Free Distribution and Nominal Pricing
6.1 Question 5a – Free distribution
The proposed legislation would enable the Scottish Government to restrict free distribution and nominal pricing of vape products when undertaken as part of a business. This would mean that the restrictions would not apply to the NHS or charities. Free distribution, as the term suggests, is the process by which goods, or coupons for goods are distributed to individuals free of charge. This is generally done to market and raise awareness of a product within a particular group of people.
Do you support the proposal to make free distribution of vaping products an offence?
Table A5a (Appendix A) provides the quantitative response to Question 5a.
The views of respondents are mixed, however, more do not support the proposal:
- Overall, 42.7% of all respondents support the Scottish Government proposal to make to make free distribution of vaping products an offence. The level of support among organisation respondents is higher than among individual respondents (68.4% and 41.4% respectively). Among organisation respondents this includes local government and health organisations.
- Over half of all respondents do not support the proposal (53.5%). Individuals are more likely than organisations to not support the proposal (55.0% and 26.3% respectively). Among organisation respondents this includes the vaping sector and the tobacco industry.
6.1.1 Respondents who support the proposal
Around one-sixth of all respondents who support the proposal to restrict free distribution of vape products when undertaken as part of a business provide further explanation.
The main themes are summarised below.
Theme 1: Limit free distribution to the NHS
Some respondents (e.g. health organisations and some individuals) feel that any free distribution of products should only happen as part of a smoking cessation programme in the NHS or by charities. These respondents consider it important to restrict free distribution to young people and adult non-smokers for whom taking up vaping would be harmful rather than beneficial.
Several respondents (e.g. health organisations and some individuals) make the point that free distribution of vaping products by some private sector companies are specifically targeted at young people and adult non-smokers to encourage them to take up vaping. There is support among these respondents that free distribution should be limited to the NHS.
“We support the proposal to make free distribution, by commercial organisations linked to the tobacco industry, of vaping products an offence. We are especially supportive of legislation which restricts free distribution to young people and those people who do not smoke. We would have concerns if legislation restricted access to NVPs for those people who wish to use them as a harm reduction method and/or smoking cessation aid”.
NHS Lanarkshire Tobacco Control Management team
Some respondents (e.g. health organisations and individuals) report that the free distribution of vaping products should remain an option as a potential route towards stopping smoking (i.e. excluding NHS and charities).
“I feel there should, however, be a caveat that access to vape products could be accessed freely when used to quit smoking. For example, as part of smoke free kits currently available”.
Theme 2: Reducing take up by children and young people
Across the consultation questions, including Question 5a, there are many personal testimonials from individuals who have witnessed children using vape products. These respondents express concern from seeing children as young as eleven vaping and children purchasing vapes over the counter in shops.
“Children are already going into shops in Glasgow and surrounding areas to buy vapes over the counter. The fact this is happening at all is highly disturbing when Scotland has made brilliant progress in reducing smoking”.
There is also some concern expressed (e.g. among some individuals and health organisations) that giveaways of NVPs in settings such as nightclubs or as part of competitions could further glamourise vaping products among young people and adult non-smokers, leading to increased initiation of vaping among these population groups.
6.1.2 Respondents who do not support the proposal
Almost one-third of respondents who do not support the proposal to restrict free distribution of vape products when undertaken as part of a business provide further comments on their reasons.
Theme 1: A need to promote the benefits of vaping over smoking
A common view among these respondents (primarily individuals, but also some tobacco industry and vaping sector respondents) is that the free distribution of vape products allows smokers to sample them. Further, these respondents note that this helps to raise awareness of, and encourages take up of, vaping. These respondents also note that vaping is much less harmful than smoking and that measures to help people to move away from tobacco should be further encouraged.
“As a vaper who quit smoking after 30 years, the first I tried vaping was through a free sample. I was a heavy smoker, who could not quit through other nicotine replacement treatments and thought I would never stop”.
A smaller number of responses, all by individual respondents (with no reported links to industry or vape trade), make a point that rather than banning the free distribution of NVPs, free distribution should be encouraged.
Theme 2: Appropriate regulation
Many respondents (primarily individuals, but also some tobacco industry and vaping sector respondents) feel that free distribution of vape products should be allowed if it is restricted to over 18s. A few of these respondents additionally note, however, that free distribution should not be allowed to non-smokers.
“As long as recipients are 18 or over, there is no reason to ban the distribution of free vapour products. Many vape shops and consumer groups have contributed to smoking cessation by offering smokers free products”.
The vaping sector and tobacco industry respondents agree that free distribution of NVPs should only be targeted at existing adult smokers but argue that free distribution of vaping products should not be limited to NHS and charities. These respondents suggest that this should also be allowed by specialist vaping retailers which operate a Challenge 25 Policy.
Several individual respondents agree with this stance and make the point that free distribution should only be allowed by approved organisations in the appropriate setting, which is generally seen as a place operated by professionals with appropriate age restrictions and ID policy.
Theme 3: Supporting those on lower incomes
The high initial price of vaping equipment is noted by some respondents (individuals and vaping industry). This is said by these respondents to be a barrier to vaping for people on low incomes, who are disproportionately likely to smoke. Further, these respondents note that the free provision or sampling of vaping equipment could help people on low incomes to overcome the initial financial barrier to starting vaping.
“The people who most need to stop smoking (the poorest and most disadvantaged) are far less likely to risk buying a product they don't understand. In my service, we gave out free vapes to help people get started, after which they were able to self-fund. Without this helping hand, they would have continued to smoke”.
6.1.3 Further clarity on the proposals
There is some concern among health organisations that a blanket ban on commercial organisations may be inappropriate and that exemptions could be considered. These respondents suggest exemptions including: elderly and mental health residential settings, private businesses supplying their own employees NVPs as part of health and wellbeing initiatives, or research projects which involve e-cigarettes. There is a request for clarification (largely by health organisations) regarding whether the distribution of branded NVPs by the NHS or charities would be prohibited under the proposal.
6.2 Question 5b – Nominal pricing
Nominal pricing involves reducing the cost of a product below its market value, sometimes to the extent that the product is almost cost-free. Again, this tactic is employed as a marketing and awareness raising tool, which could be used to replace advertising.
Restricting free distribution and nominal pricing would stop businesses giving away to the public any product or coupon where the purpose or effect is to promote a vaping product. It would also prevent them from making products or coupons for products available to the public for a nominal sum, where the purpose or effect is to promote a vaping product. Marketing initiatives that distribute free or cut-price vaping products to initiate uptake should be banned. The proposed regulations are required to ensure it is not easy to circumvent advertising regulations by offering free samples or selling at greatly reduced prices.
Do you support the proposal that nominal pricing of vaping products should be an offence?
Table A5b (Appendix A) provides the quantitative response to Question 5b.
There is broad opposition to this proposal among respondents:
- Over one-third of all respondents support the proposal that nominal pricing of vaping products should be an offence (36.8%). The level of support among organisation respondents is higher than among individual respondents (63.2% and 35.4% respectively). Among organisation respondents this includes local government and health organisations.
- Just under two-thirds of all respondents do not support the proposal (60.1%). Individuals are more likely than organisations to not support the proposal (61.7% and 31.6% respectively). Among organisation respondents this includes the tobacco industry and the vaping sector
6.2.1 Potential confusion about the question
It should, however, be noted that there may have been some confusion with this question. The question is designed to ask views on the practice of cutting prices (e.g. say from £50 to £15) on kit to encourage people to try the products and buy them. Some respondents have interpreted this question, for example, to concern offering end of stock items at lower prices.
6.2.2 Respondents who support the proposal
Almost one-seventh of respondents who support the proposal that nominal pricing of vaping products should be an offence provide further explanation. Many of the comments are similar to those raised in Question 5a regarding free distribution of vaping products.
Theme 1: Take up by children and young people
Common feedback from respondents in agreement with the proposal (individuals and health organisations) is that nominal pricing can be used to attract children and young people to start vaping, and that low prices make these products more affordable and attractive to these age groups.
Theme 2: Limit free distribution to NHS
There are a few comments (mainly from health organisations), that nominal pricing should only be allowed on the NHS as part of publicly funded smoking cessation programmes with similar reasons as outlined above in Question 5a (see Section 6.1).
6.2.3 Respondents who do not support the proposal
Almost one-third of respondents who do not support the proposal that nominal pricing of vaping products should be an offence provide further explanation. Many of these comments are also similar to those regarding free distribution of vaping equipment in Question 5a (see Section 6.1).
Theme 1: A need to promote the benefits of vaping over smoking
A common theme (primarily from individuals, but also from the vaping sector and tobacco industry) is that vaping should be affordable to encourage people to quit smoking. This is based on the common belief that vaping is an effective tool for smoking cessation and should be encouraged.
A related point from individual respondents is that people on low incomes are generally more likely to smoke and are therefore the most likely to benefit from measures which decrease the costs of vaping, both in terms of having greater access to vaping, but also in reducing the cost of their addiction.
“Price can be a barrier… therefore preventing offers and reduced prices could inadvertently keep people smoking and given the fact that people from the most deprived areas this could increase health inequalities”.
Theme 2: Potential misinterpretation of consultation question
Another theme that emerges, mainly from individual respondents, is that vape retailers should have flexibility in offering discounts on products to help clear their stock reaching sell by date or stock that has been replaced by another product.
Theme 3: Discounting restricted to adults
As with the free distribution of vaping products a wider point raised (e.g. by individuals and the tobacco industry and vaping sector) is that discounting should only be offered to over 18s with appropriate regulations in place to prevent children and young people being targeted.
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