E-cigarettes under scrutiny as eu prepares to vote — channel 4 news

The vote comes after months of wrangling from pro tobacco lobbyists and health campaigners. But MEPs will finally have their say on a range of tobacco products on Tuesday, with the expected aim of discouraging smoking throughout the EU.

They are set to impose bigger and bolder warnings on cigarette packs, a ban on flavourings like menthol and putting electronic cigarettes under tighter regulation.

E cigarettes have become one of the most popular devices among those trying to give up smoking. But some health experts say that they undermine anti smoking campaigns, while a study in a leading Canadian medical journal found that they run the risk of getting a new generation hooked on nicotine.

In light of the differing views, we have decided to wait until the emerging impact of the decision in Australia can be measured. Anna Soubry

Under EU proposals, the e cigarettes would become a medicinal product and the health warnings in text and pictures on cigarette packs sold in the EU would be bigger and bolder. Ten packs of cigarettes and slim cigarettes would also be banned.

The package of proposals, which was at the heart of the resignation of John Dalli as a European commissioner amid cash for influence allegations, has reportedly attracted an army of lobbyists for the multi billion pound industry to Strasbourg.

The vote was initially scheduled for last month but was delayed after accusations of pressure from the pro tobacco lobby.

UK position

If a majority of lawmakers back the legislation, the European parliament must still reach a compromise with EU governments on certain points before the rules can come into force, possibly next year.

Public Health Minister Anna Soubry said «Smoking is one of the biggest and most stubborn challenges in public health. The UK government supports the proposed Europe wide controls that would introduce a ban on flavoured cigarettes and strict rules on front of pack health warnings.»

In Australia, cigarettes must be sold in plain olive green packets with graphic health warnings, and Ms Soubry said the UK would judge the impact it has had there.

«We take very seriously the potential for standardised packaging to reduce smoking rates but, in light of the differing views, we have decided to wait until the emerging impact of the decision in Australia can be measured, and then we will make a decision in England,» she added.

The treatment of smoke related diseases costs around 25bn euros a year, and the EU estimates that there are around 700,000 smoking related deaths annually across the 28 nation bloc.

@eu_hemicycle > opinions & analyses about public affairs relevant for the european integration. » blog archive » 72. stronger european tobacco control is a must for solving the e-cigarette problem

Electronic cigarettes will be regulated by the recently negotiated Tobacco Products Directive (TPD). E cigarettes (nicotine inhalators) are both helpful to quit smoking and source of new dangers long term adverse effects and re normalisation of smoking. In my opinion, the regulation of e cigarettes should be linked to have much stronger European tobacco control measures.

What are e cigarettes?
According to the Commission conception note from 2008, «electronic cigarettes» (e cigarettes) or electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS) look like cigarette, but they are actually nicotine inhalators. An e cigarette contains pure nicotine to be inhaled.

(source of the photo How much do we know about electronic cigarettes?)

The Controversial Nature of e cigarettes
E cigarettes have different dimensions. Smoked tobacco is the most dangerous form and that smokeless tobacco products are significantly less harmful. On the one hand, e cigarettes have the full potential of a cessation aid, an alternative to regular tobacco cigarettes. On the other hand, electronic cigarettes can also be flavoured, and this could develop e cigarettes into a gateway product, especially for the youth.

Why did e cigarettes become so popular?
E cigarettes have the potential to replace cigarettes in the XXIst century and would became the «tobacco of the new century». In 1976 Professor Michael Russell wrote People smoke for nicotine but they die from the tar. Indeed, the harm from smoking is caused almost exclusively by toxins present in tobacco released through combustion. What does it mean in practice? According to the available knowledge, e cigarettes are far less harmful than conventional cigarettes. Thus, electronic cigarettes represent a safer alternative to conventional tobacco and putting a large number of smokers to a less dangerous product would be a definitive public health gain.

Why can not e cigarettes be accepted, as the «wonder weapon» against smoking?
Because they are far from being harmless and there is little or no evidence on their long term effects. Nicotine is a toxic and addictive substance and there are also reports of other hazardous substances being used in electronic cigarettes. A study on indoor air quality said that e cigarettes are putting detectable levels of several significant carcinogens and toxins in the air averaging around 20% of what the conventional cigarette put into the air. The World Health Organization WHO stressed that the potential risks they pose for the health of users remain undetermined. It stressed also that their efficacy for helping people to quit smoking has not been scientifically demonstrated, yet.

The E cigarette market as a public health minefield
Some people of the public health field became standard bearer of the e cigarette movement but the vast majority of well known and recognised public health and tobacco community members remained cautious. Why? Despite the very impressive promise of having public health benefits, in light of the above presented dangers there are considerable dangers which would make public health advocates extremely careful before becoming fully convinced about their use.

Here are three of them.

1. The potential ‘gateway effect’ putting non smoker on the vaping track and re normalisation of smoking
There is well founded danger among the public health & tobacco control community members that e cigarettes have the potential to make ‘smoking’ and ‘vaping’ ‘cool’ ‘fancy’ which could lead to the re normalisation of smoking, as an accepted social norm. E cigarette use can also promote indirectly smoking, forbidden by the way by the first international legally binding public health treaty on tobacco control the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC). Extremely effective marketing tactics can make e cigarettes appealing by young adults which could undermine public health flavours are essential to make e cigarettes palatable, some flavours can be attractive for the youth and putting non smoker young adults on the vaping field is an existing public health danger.

2. The lost European leadership in tobacco control policy
The Tobacco Products Directive (TPD) will be adopted hopefully before the end of the 2009 2014 political cycle (You can see here a concise summary on the TPD negotiation process as well as some questions and answers on the European regulation of e cigarettes). Although the presumed adoption of the Tobacco Products Directive (TPD) would be a considerable win for the public health & tobacco control community despite the delaying tactic of the tobacco industry, the proposal is a result of a usual European compromise and far less ambitious than it should be. The TPD will have more strict regulation on e cigarettes than the previous legal situation of Nicotine Containing Products (NCPs) . However, not being ambitious enough in tobacco control makes me somehow cautious as regards allowing e cigarettes to flourish in the EU.

The most visible example of the issue of plain packaging. Strong evidence show that cigarette package is the last weapon in the hand of the tobacco industry. Figures in Canada show that the smoking rate amongst 15 19 year olds was 12% in 2011, half the rate of the same age group in 2000. In Uruguay, since the introduction of pictorial warnings in 2005, smoking among 15 17 year olds has decreased by 8% annually. However, the original Commission proposal contained only 75% and the final compromise is only 65% coverage of the tobacco packet.

3. The growing involvement of the tobacco industry in the electronic cigarette market
This is not a new phenomenon traditional cigarette companies are taking notice of the emerging products. One prominent tobacco manufacturer in the United States purchased an electronic cigarette company, making it the first major tobacco firm to buy or invest in electronic cigarettes. According to a report prepared by the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) secretariat, in 2009, a European company that produces a range of products that it describes as being for nicotine replacement therapy, and a producer of nicotine delivery systems has agreed a marketing and distribution agreement with a company within the corporate group of yet another major tobacco manufacturer.
Most recently, the spokesperson of a well known tobacco company declared that e cigarettes are ‘substantially safer’ than conventional cigarette which made me thinking about the hidden messages behind these words.

(source of the photo E cigarette. Un vendeur attaqu en justice par un buraliste, illustration, AFP)

In my opinion, before answering the question of e cigarettes, tobacco control should be the first priority of the European legislation. Not having an ambitious enough tobacco legislation is alarming and although the appropriate use and regulation of e cigarettes can be part of the solution of the tobacco problem, e cigarettes alone cannot be the only solution and can not put an end to the tobacco epidemic we need stronger tobacco control measures hands in hand with a European e cigarette policy.

I remain at your disposal.

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Zolt n MASSAY KOSUBEK

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