UK Vaping Industry Association (UKVIA)

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The UK Vaping Industry Association (UKVIA) describes itself as the “country’s leading forum for supporting, developing and promoting the £1bn vaping industry” and was established in September 2016.1

John Dunne was appointed Director General of UKVIA  in October 2020 2

In 2018 Dunne stated that UKVIA represents “the independent vaping sector, alongside the vaping brands of the tobacco and pharmaceutical industries.’’3

UKVIA has links to the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Vaping (E-Cigarettes)

Relationship with the Tobacco Industry

Direct Links to Tobacco Companies

Figure 1 – Screengrab of UKVIA’s website, accessed April 2019, showing tobacco industry members

Since it was established in 2016 UKVIA’s membership has consisted of small independent e-cigarette manufactures and the four major tobacco companies: Japan Tobacco International (JTI), British American Tobacco (BAT), Philip Morris International (PMI),4567 and Imperial Tobacco, which was a full member by 2019, replacing their subsidiary Fontem Ventures (see figure 1). 189

Board Members Employed by the Tobacco Industry

Of the twenty Board Members of UKVIA listed until February 2020, four also held senior positions at tobacco companies:10

  • Stephen Knowles was the Regulatory Affairs Manager at BAT to December 2019 and was previously its Regulatory Engagement & Legal Executive (2016 – 2017).111 From December 2019 he was Key Account Manager in Ireland.11
  • Chris Aikens joined JTI as Government Relations Manager in September 2017, becoming Fiscal and Regulatory Affairs Manager in March 2020.12 Prior to this he worked in the House of Commons in various supportive roles to David Gauke MP, James Morris MP and Brandon Lewis MP.11213 (Lewis is a member of the Free Enterprise Group an “association of free-market orientated” Conservative MPs.)14
  • James Barrow joined PMI as External Affairs Lead in March 2018.115 He appeared to have left PMI in April 2020 to work for the NHS.15
  • Zoe Walker-Cleave joined Imperial Tobacco in 2012 as UK Public Policy Manager.16 In 2015 she became Head of Government Affairs “covering Next Generation products in addition to traditional tobacco policy”.116

From February 2020, UKVIA no longer listed these tobacco industry employees on its website.17 It was not clear whether they continued to have any formal involvement with the organisation.

The link to its ‘Board members’ linked to a list of six Directors; all apart from John Dunne listed as representing e-cigarette companies.17 The website names a number of committees which “Full members are invited to participate in and contribute to” but does not list committee members.17

In its 2019-2020 Annual Report UKVIA listed employees of tobacco companies and their affiliates, giving their roles in UKVIA’s various committees (see figure 2 below):18

 
UKVIA Committee PMI BAT JTI Imperial Brands JUUL
Operations Executive Kate Marley
Policy and Regulatory Committee Sam Millicheap Chris Aikens Lindsay Keating Max Chambers
Youth Access Prevention Committee Sam Millicheap Chris Aikens Victoria Hancock Max Chambers
Standards Committee Lindsay Keating Max Chambers

Figure 2: UKVIA committee members from tobacco companies and affiliates (Source: UKVIA annual report 2019-20)

Directors with Tobacco Industry Links

Douglas Mutter, Manufacturing and Compliance Director at the e-cigarette company VPZ, continued to be listed as a Director in 2020.17 The Grocer retail magazine reported that VPZ had received a US$15 million loan from Altria in 2018, to expand its retail stores in the UK and Europe, and that it also had a distribution deal with Juul Labs (see below).19 Mutter previously worked for Imperial Tobacco e-cigarette subsidiary Fontem Ventures from 2012-2015.20

John Dunne was Director of UKVIA until he was appointed Director General in October 2020. He had previously worked for Altria in the US for over 12 years, until he began working for e-cigarette companies in 2012.21 He was Managing Director of E-Liquid Brands until July 2019.21

Linked to Juul Labs

In March 2019 it was reported that, JUUL Labs had joined UKVIA.22 JUUL Labs Inc is a San Francisco-based e-cigarette company, 33% owned by tobacco giant Altria, and whose e-cigarette brand JUUL has received national media attention and criticism for appealing to children.232425

Dan Thomson, Managing Director of JUUL Labs UK said that a “crucial” reason for joining UKVIA was its new “code of conduct’’,26 requiring retailers to use the “Challenge 25” age identification system (currently used for alcohol purchases) in stores, and have an age verification system in place for online sales.22

Partner Organisations with Tobacco Industry Members

In 2019, UKVIA listed Vape Business Ireland and the Scottish Grocers’ Federation (SGF) as “Partners”. Both organisations have tobacco companies as members.272829 By August 2020 three further trade associations with tobacco industry members were added to UKVIA’s partner network: France Vapotage, Vita/Ariv in Canada, and Vapour Product Association in South Africa.30

For more information see: E-cigarette Trade Organisations With Tobacco Company Members.

In February 2020, UKVIA announced on its Twitter account that Reviti had joined UKVIA as a “Supplier Member”.31 Reviti is a life insurance company launched in 2019, and wholly owned by Philip Morris International. On 18 February UKVIA tweeted, quoting Reviti:

“Most other insurers treat vapers as smokers, but we don’t. We think that vaping is lower risk than cigarettes which is why we offer a lower price. We’re proud to play our part in harm reduction and support the UKVIA.”31

For more information see our page on Reviti

By mid-2020 UKVIA’s website also listed 3 organisations in China as partners: Shenzhen eCig Expo, China Electronics Chamber of Commerce and the Shenzhen E-Cigarette Chamber of Commerce (SZECCC). UKVIA signed a ‘strategic cooperation agreement’ with SZECCC in December 2019.32 Membership of these organisations was not clear.

Linked to All-Party Parliamentary Group for Vaping (E-Cigarettes)

From November 2016 until 2020, UKVIA operated as Secretariat for the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Vaping (previously named the APPG for E-cigarettes). 33 UKVIA’s membership is made up of small independent e-cigarette companies and the four main international tobacco companies.34

From August 2020, UKVIA was no longer listed as the contact point on the Parliamentary register, and its relationship with the APPG for Vaping was unclear.35 As of September 2020, UKVIA’s website stated that “The APPG is currently undertaking a review of its future direction”.36

For more information see All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Vaping (E-Cigarettes).

UKVIA Events Sponsored by Tobacco Industry

In 2018 UKVIA hosted its first conference called ‘Going for Growth’, with PMI, Logic (a JTI brand), and blu (an Imperial brand) listed as “Support Sponsors”.37

Mark Pawsey MP, Chair of the APPG and Keynote Speaker of this event, said that UKVIA had ‘’a real opportunity to take advantage of the progressive attitude of our government and public health community to shape a bespoke regulatory regime for the future of the vaping industry’’.37 Pawsey chaired a session on the “regulatory landscape” where Chris Snowdon, from the Institute of Economic Affairs said Brexit was an opportunity for the UK government to change the Tobacco Products Directive (TPD), calling it an “easy win”.37 Andrew Allison, Head of Campaigns at The Freedom Association, which has often supported tobacco industry campaigns, also contributed.38

Two other MPs led panel discussions. 3739 Gareth Johnson MP, vice-chair of the APPG, chaired a session on “whether the tobacco and pharmaceutical’s historic legacy will hinder their involvement in the vaping market”.37 According to one attendee “much of the session involved the tobacco-industry representatives (British American Tobacco, Imperial Brands, Japan Tobacco International and Philip Morris International) trying to explain how they could convince smokers and public health bodies to trust their research given the distrust built up in previous years”.39

Norman Lamb MP, chair of House of Commons Science and Technology Select Committee (at the time conducting an enquiry into e-cigarettes),40 chaired a session on “Bolstering public health evidence on vaping”, which was addressed by Gerry Stimson, a sociologist who promotes a harm reduction approach to public health and has links with the tobacco industry.37

The second UKVIA Forum, in May 2019, listed BAT, Logic and blu as “supporters”.41 UKVIA described the event as being ‘’dedicated to capturing the public health prize of vaping’’ and listed speakers/panellists including Mark Pawsey MP, Chris Snowdon, and Martin Cullip. Cullip was listed as representing the New Nicotine Alliance (a charity promoting the use of e-cigarettes as a form harm reduction).41

UKVIA’s May conference was postponed indefinitely due to the Covid-19 pandemic.42

Lobbied Government to Use E-cigarettes as Cessation Tool

UKVIA have actively lobbied the UK government on e-cigarette policy. They are not currently listed on either the UK government’s voluntary Register of Consultant lobbyists, the UK Lobbying Register run by the Chartered Institute of Public Relations, or the EU Transparency Register.

Gave Evidence to Science and Technology Select Committee (2018)

After UKVIA’s 2018 conference, Director Dunne reported that Norman Lamb MP was ‘’so convinced by the arguments raised… he immediately arranged for us to give formal evidence in Parliament a fortnight later’’.37 UKVIA gave oral evidence to the House of Commons Science and Technology Select Committee on 9 May 2018, and the Select Committee report was submitted to government in August that year.43 At the inquiry Dunne argued that there should be “a fully evidence-based regulatory framework’’ and that the industry should participate more in the process of implementing regulations relating to e-cigarette products.44 He also said that advertising restrictions are a barrier to uptake, and that UKVIA is concerned that the “public health message is not getting out there in an efficient and effective manner’’.44

When asked whether there was a role for “heat-not-burn products” in quitting, Dunne replied that UKVIA did “not have a view on that, because we are a vaping organisation”.44 However their four main tobacco industry members all have Heated Tobacco Products in their product portfolios.

Hosted Report Launch in Parliament

In November 2017 UKVIA published a report by the APPG for E-Cigarettes called ‘State of the Vaping Nation’.45 UKVIA organised a launch reception in the House of Commons, with Norman Lamb MP promoting the report alongside Pawsey and Dunne,4647 a month after the Select Committee inquiry into e-cigarettes was announced.4849 The APPG report urged Government to consider adopting a more lenient policy towards vaping.50 Pawsey argued that: ‘’There is no doubt that the current mixed messages surrounding vaping are creating a confusing picture’’.4645 In its coverage of the report launch UKVIA placed some of the blame for this confusion on “alarmist news headlines” and “‘junk science’”, a phrase that does not appear in the APPG report but has long been used to attack academic research.4751

Promoted E-cigarettes to the Public and Politicians

VApril

In March 2018, UKVIA and Mark Pawsey launched an awareness campaign called ‘VApril’, outside the Houses of Parliament, to encourage smokers to switch to e-cigarettes.5253 John Dunne, Director of UKVIA, stated that “VApril marked a milestone for the vaping industry in the UK’’.54

In 2019, ‘VApril’ was again launched by UKVIA, this time outside the Houses of Parliament and with the doctor and TV personality Dr Christian Jessen as the figurehead for a “nationwide education campaign”.54 Jessen had also been at the 2018 event,53 featured in a UKVIA leaflet promoting e-cigarettes as a tool for quitting smoking,55 and was listed as Keynote Speaker at the UKVIA 2019 conference.41

‘VApril’ was promoted as a virtual initiative in 2020, due to the Covid-19 pandemic.56 At the time, UKVIA lobbied for e-cigarette stores to be kept open.57

Media Campaigns

In November 2019, Bristol-based agency JBP ran a national campaign to promote e-cigarettes on behalf of UKVIA.46 Called “Facts Not Fiction” it included full page newspaper advertisements and TV coverage.465859 JBP states that it operates as secretariat for UKVIA and arranges media opportunities, social media activities, and UKVIA events. It worked on the launch of VApril in 2019.46

Event at Labour Party Conference

UKVIA held a fringe event at the Labour Party conference in September 2019, promoted by SME 4 Labour (an organisation which lobbies the party on behalf of small and medium sized enterprises). The event was called “Vapreneurs and the Economy: How Vaping SMEs have created jobs and opportunities across the UK”.4660 Two MPs gave talks: Bill Esterson (then Shadow Minister for Trade) and Chi Omwurah (then Shadow Minister for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy).4660  James Dunworth from the company E-Cigarette Direct also spoke at the event.60

Opposed to Additional Tax on E-cigarettes

In August 2018 multiple stories appeared in the UK media claiming that the UK Government was considering a “sin” tax on e-cigarette products to help fund the NHS.616263 6465 UKVIA wrote to the Treasury claiming that such a tax would risk damaging public health and that it conflicted with government stop smoking policy.626366 In response the Treasury stated that ‘’we have no current plans to introduce a new tax on vaping products’’.67

Lobbied Against International Regulation

UKVIA have said that it supports “a responsible and fair regulatory framework”, but objects to the EU putting tobacco and e-cigarettes in the same category.5 At its 2018 conference, UKVIA stated that it would be lobbying for changes to the TPD and advertising regulations “to allow the full public health potential of vaping products to be realised”.5

In September 2018, just before the eighth session of the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC) Conference of the Parties in Geneva, UKVIA lobbied the WHO, along with Vape Business Ireland and 14 other e-cigarette-related organisations from around the world as co-signatories.6869707172. Their aim was to get the WHO to reverse its “decision to invite bans and restrictions on vaping”, and to recognise the use of e-cigarettes as “part of an effective harm reduction strategy’’.69

A UKVIA representative said that it was:

“keen to work with the WHO to ensure that its policy decisions at the Geneva congress reflect the evidence and good common sense.”69

Relevant Links

UK Vaping Industry Association Website

TobaccoTactics Resources

References

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