Europe is working on changing the way it taxes vape products and how it is going to legislate vaping in future. Meanwhile, the World Health Organization continues to ignore the benefits offered to public health by smokers switching to reduce their harm exposure from tobacco use. A cross-party group in Parliament is looking to fight our corner and promote tobacco harm reduction.
The European Parliament is currently conducting a review of the Tobacco Taxation Directive. The consultation, open for public comment until the 22nd of June is being conducted with the political intent to treat vaping like smoking and abolish the financial incentive to switch from tobacco to electronic cigarettes.
Although this will only impact smokers and vapers within the European Union, some consumer organisations have voiced their concern that a negative outcome could influence politicians in the United Kingdom.
European consumer group European Tobacco Harm Reduction Advocates (ETHRA) has said: “To ensure that safer nicotine products remain affordable it is vitally important that consumers and tobacco harm reduction advocacy associations make their voices heard loud and clear.”
The recent Eurobarometer report has undergone further analysis. The 334-page document showed a 121% increase in switching from smoking to vaping and included data gathered from European countries as well as the United Kingdom.
The giant tome will be used by European politicians as they work on finalising the next version of the Tobacco Products Directive – the legislation governing vaping in Europe. Again, groups like the New Nicotine Alliance have warned that a harsh environment could give a boost to anti-vaping activists in the UK.
The report highlights the huge success we have had in the UK with vaping and the success in Sweden thanks to snus pouches. But, despite this, there is still “widespread ignorance about e-cigarettes” according to harm reduction expert Christopher Snowdon.
The European Commission has met to discuss the feedback to its Beating Cancer Plan (4). The plan was roundly met with condemnation by consumer organisations when it was released for the distortion of science it contained. Despite those submissions, ministers expressed “their strong support and commitment to it. Many delegations emphasised that the plan was complementary to their national strategies”.
ETHRA has spoken out again about the SCHEER Final Opinion of e-cigarettes report. This is another document that will feed into the development of the next version of the Tobacco Products Directive. “The Preliminary Opinion had received a lot of criticism. Important studies were omitted, and potential harms of vaping were overstated,” they said.
The comments followed the SCHEER committee’s second meeting of the month during which they delayed finalising the Opinion again.
Finally, the World Health Organization (WHO) has hidden behind a claimed move to protect women in order to launch yet another attack on vaping and other alternative nicotine products. It says, “that e-cigarette advertisements in magazines that primarily target young women portray users having fun with friends and being cool. Marketing of e-cigarettes and HTPs on social media position these products as socially attractive and associate their use with having a good time, relaxation, exclusivity, partying, freedom and sex appeal, themes that may be considered important to young people, especially young women.”
Sadly, the WHO ignores the potential for tobacco harm reduction once again running contrary to the position taken by the UK parliament. Fortunately, a recent fact-gathering exercise by an All-Party Parliamentary Group is addressing this and making recommendations to push our perspective at a forthcoming WHO meeting later this year.