The UK Vaping Industry Association (UKVIA) has on Friday announced that the membership of British American Tobacco (BAT), Imperial Brands, Japan Tobacco International (JTI) and Philip Morris International (PMI) has come to an end.
The industry body added that it will no longer include any tobacco companies within its membership and will not be accepting any tobacco company funding in the future.
The association has decided not to accept any new applications for membership by vaping businesses wholly/part owned or acquired by tobacco companies in the future following a member-wide consultation.
The UKVIA said it has become “increasingly clear” that the interests of the vaping industry would be best served by the association being independent of any involvement or funding from tobacco-owned vaping brands, as there has been an “ingrained external misperception” that the association is largely financially supported by tobacco firms.
“Whilst this could not be further from the truth (funding from tobacco-owned vaping brands for the last membership year amounted to less than 4 per cent of the total of all UKVIA’s income) it gave the impression in some quarters that the association was synonymous with combustible tobacco, the very market it is trying to eliminate to create a smoke free future,” the association said in a statement.
The UKVIA said its intention in including tobacco-owned vaping brands in the membership originally was to create a significant movement for change, from tobacco to vaping, partly through their organisations focusing on the production of vapes and reduced harm alternatives.
“However, the UKVIA acknowledges that it underestimated the impact of restrictions on tobacco companies for the association to engage with some key stakeholders, particularly those in public health,” the statement noted.
“In representing vaping-only businesses, many of which are independent firms founded on the back of personal loss of family members as a result of smoking combustible cigarettes, the UKVIA wants to be fully engaged with key stakeholders across the board as we have the same vision, which is to make smoking history.
“The association sees this as being a vital step in ensuring that the public health potential of vaping is fully realised and the sector making its fullest contribution to the delivery of the smoke free targets over the next few years to 2030.”
Imperial Brands and BAT said they would continue to work outside the UKVIA to promote the vaping sector.
“We are proud of our contribution to UKVIA over the last seven years, and as one of UKVIA’s founding members, we have helped the association to establish itself as a meaningful voice in the sector, championing the vaping category across the UK,” Oliver Kutz, general manager UK & Ireland at Imperial Brands, told Vape Business.
“Outside of UKVIA membership, we will continue to call for government and enforcement authorities to work together with the industry to raise safety and quality standards across the sector in order to drive out irresponsible actors and improve trust in this important product category.”
Responding to the development, a BAT UK spokesperson said: “BAT has been a member of the UKVIA since its inception and recognises the valuable role that the association has played in promoting the benefits of vaping. BAT is no longer a member of the UKVIA but remains committed to transforming our business by reducing the health impact of smoking. We will continue to do this by offering the widest choice of reduced-risk products to smokers, and by encouraging them to switch.”
JTI and PMI have been approached for comment.