The UK Vaping Industry Association (UKVIA) has announced that British American Tobacco, Imperial Brands, Japan Tobacco International and Philip Morris International are no longer members.

According to a statement from the UKVIA, it will no longer include any tobacco companies within its membership and will not be accepting any new applications for membership by vaping businesses wholly/part owned or acquired by tobacco companies in the future.

The trade body believes that “the interests of the industry would be best served by the association being independent of any involvement or funding from tobacco-owned vaping brands”.

It hopes to dispel “misconceptions” that the association is largely financially supported by tobacco firms and to overcome restrictions tobacco companies may face when engaging with key stakeholders in the move to smokefree.

“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.”

In a statement to Convenience Store, 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.”

Oliver Kutz, general manager UK & Ireland at Imperial Brands, added: “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.

“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. As we said recently in our response to the UK Governments call for evidence on youth vaping, we are keen to see a number of measures introduced to ensure vape products should be used by existing adult smokers and adult vapers only – not children.

“These proposals address product quality, flavour and naming conventions to limit youth appeal, stronger regulations for online advertising and importantly a retailer licensing scheme which could also support local authorities tackle non-compliance.”