With Cancer being responsible for 20% of all deaths in Europe, earlier this year on February 4th, the European Commission (EC) announced Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan. Last month, the Special Committee on Beating Cancer (BECA) met for the second time for an exchange of views with Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides.
As part of the Committee’s work, a draft document on Inputs of the Special Committee on Beating Cancer (BECA) to influence the future Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan, was released by the Committee. It was once again emphasized that tobacco use, in the form of cigarette smoking is the main risk factor for cancer death within Europe.
“Tobacco use, in particular cigarette smoking, is the main risk factor for cancer death in Europe. Various measures to fight against smoking appear heterogeneous and inconsistently implemented. Overall, the WHO Europe region is the global area with the highest tobacco consumption, with major discrepancies between Member States, as the proportion of smokers varies by a factor of up to 5 from one country to another,” read an excerpt from the document.
The need for new tobacco harm reduction approaches
In response to this draft, director of the World Vapers’ Alliance (WVA), Michael Landl, had said that it is time new tobacco harm reduction approaches are endorsed. “To succeed in its mission, the BECA committee and the European Parliament must be brave enough to endorse new approaches. Vapers across Europe are calling on policymakers to recognise the benefits of vaping, and its potential to massively reduce the harm of smoking. Policymakers cannot ignore the facts any longer.”
“We appreciate the commitment from MEP Mrs. Véronique Trillet-Lenoir and the entire Special Committee on Beating Cancer to fight smoking-related cancer. The Europe Beating Cancer Plan needs to endorse vaping as an effective tool to help smokers move to a safer alternative. That’ Back vaping, beat cancer!”
Back Vaping, Beat Cancer
To this effect, the alliance staged a friendly demonstration to coincide with another meeting of the Parliament’s Special Committee on Beating Cancer. “While we can’t be there in person, we wanted to make sure that MEPs hear us and see us. 700.000 people die every year in the EU due to smoking induced cancer but as vapers, we have seen first hand how vaping helps to quit smoking. Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan must endorse vaping as an effective method to help smokers move to a safer alternative and reduce cancer in Europe,” said Landl.
“The demonstration is a part of the World Vapers’ Alliance’s BACK VAPING. BEAT CANCER campaign to rally the voices of the many who have already experienced the benefits of vaping first-hand and quit smoking as a result. Calling on European vapers to make their voices heard,” said the WVA in a press release.
Landl added that it is of utmost importance that every European vaper signs the WVA’s petition. “Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan is an opportunity and one we cannot miss. I’m asking every vaper across the EU to join our movement and to sign our petition calling on the EU to Back Vaping to Beat Cancer.”
Lower cancer risk from vaping compared to smoking
During the Committee meeting a number of MEPs highlighted the potential of vaping as a harm reduction aid. A release by the WVA said that Italian MEP Pietro Fiocchi pointed out studies indicating a much lower cancer risk from vaping when compared to smoking, while MEP Tomislav Sokol from Croatia questioned how the concept of ‘harm reduction’ could help fight cancer. Additionally, German MEP Peter Liese, highlighted the need to ensure that vaping is not as restricted as smoking.
“Stop smoking is easy to say, but for those who are addicted it is very difficult. That is why I think we need to be a bit more open towards e-cigarettes. So at least we need to make sure that e-cigarettes are not more difficult to access than tobacco,” said Liese.
The importance of sensible regulations
Similarly, Dr. Nataliya Chilingirova, Associate Professor of Oncology, Science and Research Institute, Medical University Pleven, Bulgaria who was invited to speak, reiterated that regulations should be relative to risks.
“Based on current evidence the levels of exposure to carcinogens [from e-cigarettes] are lower than those in the cigarette smoke. They are good options for current smokers who don’t want to quit or cannot quit. I would suggest that the legal restrictions which apply to cigarettes should not fully be applied to heated tobacco products and other novel nicotine delivery systems. They could be used as harm reduction for heavy smokers and those who don’t have any other options.”
Landl said that the above comments are encouraging. “I’m encouraged by the increasing open-mindedness of MEPs to how vaping can help reduce smoking and help reduce cancer. It’s good to see MEPs Fiocchi, Sokol and Liese raising vaping in the Special Committee and I hope that over the next few months, the support for vaping will increase.”