New study reveals discoveries in cigarettes and alcohol sector could have seismic effects on public health, but are currently blocked by “morality police”

  • Alcohol responsible for 10% of UK death and disease
  • New synthetic alcohol, Alcosynth, 100 times safer and hangover free
  • Alcosynth faces harsh regulation despite being a major public health benefit
  • E-cigarettes 95% safer than combustible cigarettes but can’t market themselves as such
  • Post-Brexit Britain has the chance to be a leader in ‘vice’-related risk reduction and save thousands of lives every year – if it allows innovation to flourish

The UK has the opportunity to be a world leader in reducing the risks of drinking and smoking following its exit from the European Union, a new paper from the Adam Smith Institute released this morning reports.

The new study reveals how heavy-handed EU and UK government regulations have held back the development of safer alternatives to drinking and smoking, with public health officials pursuing abstinence campaigns to the detriment of risk reduction products that could save thousands more lives every year.

The report includes interviews with the developer of a new synthetic alcohol which gives users the sensation of being tipsy without the hangover or long term health hazards. The product, currently named ‘Alcosynth’, could be up to 100 times safer than the real thing but is blighted by regulatory burdens that are holding safer products back from consumers.

With as much as 10% of UK deaths and diseases caused by alcohol consumption, and upwards of 60 medical conditions associated with drinking, these risk reduction products should be taken seriously as public health goods, the paper argues. 

Despite slashing smoker numbers, e-cigarettes been hampered by regulation. Although they are 95% safer than combustible cigarettes according to Public Health England, e-cig companies are unable to market their comparative health benefits to the public, and the latest round of EU regulations will make the development of newer, better, and safer e-cigarettes for consumers much more difficult.

As the latest innovation of ‘heat not burn’ tobacco products is brought to market the report underlines the importance of fostering innovation and competition on safety. Regulators are becoming increasingly restrictive rather than fostering innovative and satisfying alternatives to smoking and drinking.

Theresa May’s government would be wise to utilise Brexit to throw out regulation like the the EU’s Tobacco Products Directive and save thousands of lives a year. Replacing it with a system of ‘permissionless innovation’ where a regulatory pathway for safer products to be developed and marketed is created, both by big players and by new entrants to the market.

Sam Bowman, Executive Director of the Adam Smith Institute, said:
“It’s innovation not regulation that got us e-cigarettes. They emerged and prospered in spite of regulation, proving to be the best way to get people to quit quickly that we know of. But despite this, misguided public health officials are trying to clamp down on them because of evidence-free and dangerous fears that they ‘normalise’ smoking.

“Other products like synthetic alcohol and reduced-risk tobacco products promise to repeat the success of e-cigs for new people, but only if we let them. It is crucial that the government does not stand in the way of hangover-free alcohol.

“Regulation must be flexible and encouraging of new products that are safer than the vices they’re competing with. Britain can be a world leader in safe alternatives to alcohol and cigarettes, but we need regulation that foster those things instead of stamping them out.”

Notes to editors:

For further comments or to arrange an interview, contact Flora Laven-Morris, Head of Communications, at flora@adamsmith.org | 07584 778207.

To report “SINNOVATION: How markets can solve public health problems” will be live on the Adam Smith Institute website from 00:01 Friday 23rd September 2016 and is available here in advance.

The Adam Smith Institute is a free market, libertarian think tank based in London. It advocates classically liberal public policies to create a richer, freer world.