The planned EU ban on higher strength e-cigarettes used by 2.5 million Europeans will increase tobacco smoking and lead to 105,000 extra deaths every year, according to the respected economics consultancy, London Economics. The report shows that 210,000 fewer smokers per year will successfully quit smoking as a result of the ban with 9.6 million extra tobacco cigarettes being smoked every day.
The ban is contained in the Tobacco Products Directive (TPD) due to be voted by MEPs today (26 February). It would ban all e-cigarettes containing more than 20mg/ml of nicotine - a level scientists say is equivalent to less than a 1/3 of the nicotine in a standard tobacco cigarette. Currently 25% of e-cigarette users currently use higher strength e-cigarettes to help them switch from tobacco.
“Typically these are highly dependent smokers whose history of heavy tobacco use makes them very vulnerable to fatal outcomes if they revert back to tobacco,” said Aaron Taylor, MD of Ecigwizard.com (Electronic Cigarettes Ltd) which helped fund the report.
London Economics found that along with e-cigarette users reverting back to tobacco, the ban would also lead to less people quitting as the weaker strengths of e-cigarettes would not be sufficient for them to transition from tobacco to e-cigarettes which repeated scientific studies have found to be vastly safer than tobacco cigarettes.
This ban in the TPD has already been denounced by the world’s top nicotine scientists in a letter to Commission. Some of them had been quoted by the Commission as allegedly backing its policy. But instead the scientists published a line-by-line rebuttal of the TPD’s measures (Scientists' Letter, New Scientist) showing that the Commission had made basic calculation errors in banning the stronger e-cigarettes. They also made clear that the 20mg/ml is far below toxic levels.
“When the Commission ignores the science, it’s no surprise that the real world impact of their policies is so serious. MEPs surprised the Commission by voting against plans to heavily regulate e-cigarettes in October 2013. Tomorrow’s vote is the chance for MEPs to show that they are not puppets but care deeply about the impact on these 2.5 million smokers who are trying to quit by using these devices. Europe’s 10 million vaping voters will be watching carefully how their MEPS vote tomorrow,” said the world’s biggest e-cigarette website E-Cigarette Forum Managing Director Oliver Kershaw.
Big pharma companies like GSK have joined tobacco companies in lobbying strongly against e-cigarettes. Their profits have been hit by the huge popularity of e-cigarettes whose sales doubled last year. (see Pharma lobbying and slides 4 and 8 of Monthly tracking study)
Questions for government officials
Why have officials not done any economic modelling of the health impact of their ban on higher nicotine e-cigarettes?
Why have they stood by the 20mg/ml figure when it has been denounced by the world’s top nicotine scientists as a blatant miscalculation?
How many meetings have Commission officials had with pharmaceutical lobbyists over the last year?
E-Cigarettes Gain Support
- “Many regulators are banning e-cigarettes or encumbering them with so many restrictions that they are unlikely to be taken up on the scale required to cut significantly the number of smokers” FT, January 2014
- “Now doctors say e-cigarettes do help you quit - and could save millions of lives... so why are petty bureaucrats intent on banning them from public places?” Mail on Sunday - January 2014
- “E-cigarettes will save lives if we keep them out of the itching regulatory hands of the health nannies” The Times, October 2013
- “It is not that often that we find ourselves in agreement with a vote in the European Parliament.” Daily Telegraph, October 2013
- “Careless regulation costs lives… Politicians should stand back and let a thousand e-cig brands bloom.” The Economist, September 2013
Tobacco volumes are plunging
- In Europe (Philip Morris sales in Europe fall 7%, October 2013, Philip Morris Cigarette Sales BAT sales in Europe fall 9%, October 2013 BAT Cigarette Sales ). This is coinciding with the explosive growth in the use of e-cigarettes for quit attempts. The monthly tracking data in the official Smoking Toolkit Study shows (slide 4) a roughly 800% increase in smokers using e-cigarettes to quit over the past year.
- "We have increased conviction that consumption of e-cigarettes could surpass consumption of conventional cigarettes within the next decade.” Wells Fargo, June 2013
- “Through the whole of my career in more than 30 years working in the field of tobacco research the best we have been able to achieve in terms of getting smoking prevalence down is around 1% a year. Now with electronic-cigarettes we have an opportunity to end the tobacco epidemic in my lifetime. This is something that I never thought I would see.” Professor Robert West, speaking on ITV, January 2014
E-cigarettes 'not a gateway into tobacco'
- "There is not as yet any sign that non-smokers are taking up e-cigarettes, even amongst young people their products are tried by smokers," ASH Chief Executive Deborah Arnott, Marketing Magazine, February 2014
- In this Oklahoma Study only one of 43 students whose first use of nicotine was an e-cigarette went on to become a tobacco user.
- Scientific research indicates around 20% of UK 15 year olds are regular tobacco smokers.
- Alternative nicotine sources like e-cigarettes are less addictive than tobacco Fagerstrom, December 2013
E-cigarettes are safe
- “There is no evidence that vaping produces inhalable exposures to contaminants of the aerosol that would warrant health concerns." Drexel University Study, January 2014
- “The chemicals that make cigarettes dangerous are either absent in electronic cigarettes or present only in trace concentrations.” Lancet, July 2013
- “The study indicates no apparent risk to human health from e-cigarette emissions.” Inhalation Toxicology, October 2012
- “The risk is negligible, and compared with smoking there is no contest.” Professor Robert West, University College London, July 2013
- “If all the smokers in Britain stopped smoking cigarettes and started smoking e-cigarettes we would save 5 million deaths” Professor John Britton, Royal College of Physicians, February 2013
- The toxicity of vapour in e-cigarettes is “one thousandth of that in cigarette smoke”. NHS website
Competing against pharmaceutical products
- Electronic cigarettes could be the "greatest health advance since vaccinations," Professor David Nutt, BBC News, February 2014
- E-cigarettes buyers are “more likely” to be able to quit than if buying nicotine gum and patches. SRNT research, February 2014
- “E-cigarettes are by far the most credible alternative to tobacco cigarettes.” Goldman Sachs, August 2013
Illicit tobacco trade: Nearly 370 million cigarettes seized in 2020
International operations involving the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) led to the seizure of nearly 370 million illegal cigarettes in 2020. The majority of the cigarettes were smuggled from countries outside the EU but destined for sale on EU markets. Had they reached the market, OLAF estimates that these black market cigarettes would have caused losses of around €74 million in customs and excise duties and VAT to EU and member state budgets.
OLAF supported national and international customs and law enforcement agencies from across the world in 20 operations during 2020, in particular providing vital information on the identification and tracking of lorries and/or containers loaded with cigarettes misdeclared as other goods at the EU borders. OLAF exchanges intelligence and information in real time with EU member states and third countries, and if there is clear evidence that the shipments are destined for the EU contraband market, national authorities are ready and able to step in and stop them.
OLAF Director-General Ville Itälä said: “2020 was a challenging year in so many ways. While many legitimate businesses were forced to slow or halt production, the counterfeiters and smugglers continued unabated. I am proud to say that OLAF’s investigators and analysts played a vital role in helping to track and seize these illegal tobacco shipments, and that OLAF’s cooperation with authorities across the globe has remained strong despite the challenging conditions. Our joint efforts have not only helped save millions of euros in lost revenues and kept millions of contraband cigarettes of the market, they have also helped us get closer to the ultimate goal of identifying and closing down the criminal gangs behind this dangerous and illegal trade.”
A total of 368,034,640 cigarettes destined for illegal sale in the EU were seized in operations involving OLAF during 2020; of these 132,500,000 cigarettes were seized in non-EU countries (primarily Albania, Kosovo, Malaysia and Ukraine) while 235,534,640 cigarettes were seized in EU member states.
OLAF has also identified clear patterns with regard to the origins of this illicit tobacco trade: of the cigarettes seized in 2020, some 163,072,740 originated in the Far East (China, Vietnam, Singapore, Malaysia), while 99,250,000 were from the Balkans/Eastern Europe (Montenegro, Belarus, Ukraine). A further 84,711,900 originated in Turkey, while 21,000,000 came from the UAE.
The main cigarette smuggling operations reported by OLAF in 2020 involved collaborations with authorities in Malaysia and Belgium, Italy and Ukraine, as well as a number involving authorities from across the EU and elsewhere.
OLAF mission, mandate and competences
OLAF’s mission is to detect, investigate and stop fraud with EU funds.
OLAF fulfils its mission by:
- Carrying out independent investigations into fraud and corruption involving EU funds, so as to ensure that all EU taxpayers’ money reaches projects that can create jobs and growth in Europe;
- contributing to strengthening citizens’ trust in the EU Institutions by investigating serious misconduct by EU staff and members of the EU Institutions, and;
- developing a sound EU anti-fraud policy.
In its independent investigative function, OLAF can investigate matters relating to fraud, corruption and other offences affecting the EU financial interests concerning:
- All EU expenditure: the main spending categories are Structural Funds, agricultural policy and rural
- development funds, direct expenditure and external aid;
- some areas of EU revenue, mainly customs duties, and;
- suspicions of serious misconduct by EU staff and members of the EU institutions.
Tobacco Excise Directive consultation: 83% of submissions warning about higher taxes on vaping
The World Vapers’ Alliance strongly urges policymakers to stay away from equating smoking tobacco and vaping, especially when it comes to taxation. This comes off the heels of a recently ended consultation on the update of the Tobacco Excise Directive, which specified the European Commission’s intention to tax vaping products similarly to how cigarettes are taxed.
Commenting on the consultation, WVA Director Michael Landl said: “Making vaping less appealing to smokers by higher prices will discourage current smokers from switching to less harmful alternatives. This is certainly not going to be of any public health benefit. Additionally, high taxes on vaping products are particularly harmful to the lower income brackets of the population, which make up the largest proportion of current smokers.”
The consultation ended on 5 January and out of 134 responses from citizens, associations and industry, 113, or 84% referenced the positive impacts of vaping and the serious negative impact that taxing it the same as cigarettes would have.
Michael Landl added: “I am delighted by the overwhelming number of responses in favour of vaping to this consultation. It shows that many people know the potential for harm reduction of vaping. . What policymakers need now to understand is that tax hikes on vaping will lead to people switching back to smoking, an outcome absolutely nobody wishes for.”
Therefore, for the WVA it is important that non-combustible products are not regulated and taxed the same way combustible tobacco is. Lawmakers need to follow the scientific evidence and abstain from tighter regulation and higher taxation of vaping products.
“If we want to reduce smoking induced burdens on public health, access and affordability to vaping products need to be guaranteed,” Landl concluded.
Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan: Time to back vaping and beat cancer
Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan needs bold action on tobacco, and MEPs must Back Vaping to Beat Cancer, according to the World Vapers’ Alliance. The Special Committee on Beating Cancer (BECA) today identified that ‘tobacco use, in particular cigarette smoking is the main risk factor for cancer death in Europe’.
Commenting on the new document, World Vapers’ Alliance (WVA) Director Michael Landl said: “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!”
The new working document presented in today’s Special Committee on Beating Cancer (BECA) by the Committee's rapporteur MEP Véronique Trillet-Lenoir states that: “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.”
The European Parliament’s Special Committee on Beating Cancer (BECA) met for the second time today for an exchange of views with Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides.
As part of the Committee’s work, a draft WORKING 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 and its rapporteur Veronique Trillet-Lenoir. It identifies that tobacco is the main risk factor for cancer death in Europe. You can find the document here.
The World Vapers’ Alliance (WVA) amplifies the voice of vapers around the world and empowers them to make a difference for their communities. Our members are vapers associations as well as individual vapers from all over the world. More information available here.
Michael Landl is the director of the World Vapers’ Alliance. He is from Austria and based in Vienna. He is an experienced policy professional and passionate vaper. He studied at the University of St. Gallen and worked for several public policy outlets and as well in the German Parliament.
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