The European Commission has released its Beating Cancer Plan. The launch coincided with World Cancer Day and has been met with universal condemnation from vape consumer groups, advocates and trade bodies. The Plan proposes a harsh new world for European vapers, and some British experts worry it could impact here too.
The aim of the Beating Cancer Plan is to achieve a “Tobacco-Free Generation” by 2040. This means they want to reduce the number of people using tobacco products to less than 5% of the population of Europe.
It aims to achieve this in two ways: increasing controls under the Tobacco Products Directive, and disincentivising purchases through the Tobacco Taxation Directive.
What does this mean for vaping?
The proposals couldn’t mount to much worse. It starts with classifying vape products as tobacco products, in line with the stance taken by the World Health Organization, despite e-liquid not containing tobacco.
Then, as they have now called it a tobacco product, they are going to treat vaping like smoking. This means there are plans to ban all e-liquid flavours apart from Tobacco, make all vape products have plain packaging, and prohibit vaping everywhere smoking is currently or will be banned.
Companies will be subjected to further restrictions on what they can say and where they can say it. Restrictions will be placed and advertising, promotion, and sponsorship, and they are seeking to bring in laws covering what can be posted on the internet and social media.
Finally, they intend to force companies to adopt a “track and trace” system, which will add cost to products, and impose a tax rise to match that of cigarettes.
What has been the response?
The UK Vape Industry Association (UKVIA) expressed its deep concern at the Plan’s proposals, “a move which could undermine the public health potential of vaping” and was “causing concern amongst vaping industry leaders and harm-reduction advocates.”
UKVIA’s Director General John Dunne said: “While we completely support efforts to combat the scourge of cancer in our society, the creation of artificial barriers to harm-reduction products is clearly counterproductive. Adult smokers must be empowered to make positive change, rather than being discouraged. Cancer Research UK, along with the Royal College of GPs, has confirmed vaping’s significant harm-reduction compared to cigarettes, as well as its efficacy in smoking cessation. The EU’s plans are out of step with this latest evidence.”
Can the UK avoid these proposals?
The New Nicotine Alliance hosted a Zoom webcast looking at this very issue last December. The guests were concerned that even though Brexit now allows us to change our legislation, there is a question about whether we would diverge from Europe’s Tobacco Products Directive or if we could be forced to accept parts of it in future trade negotiations.
Clive Bates, a recognised expert in tobacco harm reduction, spoke passionately that the best thing for vapers to do to protect their future rights to vape is to support the New Nicotine Alliance, sign up for notifications, and take part in any future organised activities.
The MP Mark Pawsey said it was essential that vapers educate their local MPs by telling them how electronic cigarettes had helped them to get away from tobacco when, in almost every case, traditional replacement therapies hadn’t worked.