Editorials

Why Britain needs a nicotine regulation authority

BMJ 2001; 322 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.322.7294.1077 (Published 05 May 2001) Cite this as: BMJ 2001;322:1077
  1. John Britton, professor of epidemiology,
  2. Ann McNeill, independent consultant in public health
  1. Division of Respiratory Medicine, City Hospital, Nottingham NG5 1PB
  2. 78 Kenwood Drive, Beckenham, Kent BR3 6QZ

    To bring consistency and regulation to tobacco and alternative nicotine products

    In the United Kingdom, as in most developed countries, strict laws apply to the production and supply of goods and services to the public. An important function of this legislation is to protect consumers from damage caused by the products they buy, and in many cases this protection extends to levels of risk that are, at an individual level, extremely small. It is therefore an anomaly that cigarettes, which if used as intended kill half of all regular consumers,1 enjoy remarkable freedom from consumer protection legislation.

    Cigarettes are not a food, so are not regulated by the Food Standards Agency, and not medicines, so are not regulated by the Medicines Control Agency. They are a consumer product but are exempt from the Consumer Protection Act 1987 and General Product Safety Regulations 1994. Thus the most dangerous product on general sale in the UK is subject to the least regulatory control.

    Cigarettes kill because they produce nicotine, which …

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