To add insult to injury, added Landl, not only are vaping products not considered harm reduction tools, but in parts of the plan they are even equated to cigarettes.
“Smoking and vaping are not the same and the Commission knows this. However, due to an ideological approach, they are neglecting their duty to pursue policies in the best interest of all EU citizens. Treating the two as the same is a mistake that could prevent thousands of smokers from quitting smoking. After all, we know that vaping is twice as effective as other methods to stop smoking.”
“If vaping is subject to the same rules as cigarettes – higher taxes, bans in certain places etc – then those that gave up smoking thanks to vaping will see smoking become, relatively speaking, more appealing. That’s a disaster and flies in the face of what the EU is hoping to achieve. If the EU is concerned about young people taking up vaping, then let’s enforce age restrictions but making vaping more expensive and less enjoyable is a sure-fire way to drive current vapers straight back to the old habit,” added Landl.
Success witnessed in countries adopting tobacco harm reduction strategies
The Independent European Vape Alliance (IEVA) was another organization which brought up the issue. In a recent press release it pointed out that while the plan is extremely important in terms of having a strategy to reduce cancer-related deaths, it neglects an important instrument for public health: Harm Reduction.
“Once again, the EU Commission is focusing on the obsolete ‘quit or die’ approach when it comes to tobacco cessation, instead of designing a reality-based addiction policy”, said Prof Heino Stöver from the German Institute for Addiction Research at the Frankfurt University of Applied Sciences. “The UK, New Zealand and Canada are using e-cigarettes as a key tool in the fight against tobacco use and are more successful than the EU with its outdated approach,” explained the IEVA.
It went on to refer to the effective strategy adopted by the UK, after Public Health England (PHE) had published a report with data indicating that e-cigarettes are at least 95 percent less harmful than tobacco cigarettes. After endorsing harm-reducing alternatives, the nation’s smoking rates started reducing rapidly, successfully reaching the lowest figures ever recorded just within a few years.
IEVA Chairman Dustin Dahlmann, reiterated that overlooking harm reduction is a missed opportunity. “We welcome the EU Beating Cancer Plan. The strategy needs to consider all means available to reduce the burden of cancer related risks: It is of utmost importance that preventive measures are flanked by tobacco harm reduction. Otherwise, millions of smokers might miss the opportunity to tremendously reduce their risk of cancer.”
ETHRA sends letter to MEPs
Reflecting the above arguments, the European Tobacco Harm Reduction Advocates (ETHRA) sent a letter to the MEPs on the Special Committee on Beating Cancer (BECA) to express their disappointment on the matter.
“The Plan spectacularly fails to make a distinction between harmful smoked products and smoke free alternatives and signals that the Commission intends to turn its back on innovation and science by cracking down on vaping, the popular and far less risky alternative to smoking,” said the organization in a press release.
“Consumers and experts submitted in their thousands to the two public consultations last year, yet those views are ignored in the Plan. We hope that MEPs will take our views into account at tomorrow’s BECA meeting and exchange of views with Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides.”