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
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.
Backing #Vaping to beat #Cancer
The upcoming European Union's Beating Cancer Plan is a historic chance to improve public health in Europe. Cancer is the second leading cause of death in the EU. 1.3 million people die from cancer each year in the EU and 700,000 of those deaths are associated with smoking. Despite these terrifying numbers, approximately 140 million Europeans are still smoking. The European Union is right to tackle the disease with a holistic approach, writes Michael Landl (pictured).
A comprehensive approach needs to include prevention and harm reduction. While it is important that lawmakers do everything, they can to prevent people from starting smoking, it is equally important to support current smokers in their quest to quit. Including e-cigarettes (vaping) in the EU Beating Cancer Plan will help millions of European who are struggling to quit smoking and consequently prevent many deaths associated with cancer from smoking.
E-cigarettes contain liquid which is heated and turned into vapour. There is no tobacco nor tar in e-cigarettes and many of the toxins in cigarettes are not present in e-cigarettes. In 2015, Public Health England declared that vaping is 95% less harmful than smoking and began recommending that current smokers switch to electronic cigarettes. Countries like Canada and New Zealand followed their lead and have helped save millions of lives. In fact, these policies promoting vaping arguably achieved more in a short period of time than what lawmakers tried to accomplish for years: fewer people smoking cigarettes.
We know that abstinence is not as effective as alternatives, such as vaping. According to a 2019 study from Queen Mary University London of 100 smokers trying to quit cold turkey, only three to five succeed - while according to the same study, vaping is even more effective for smoking cessation than nicotine-replacement therapy, like patches or gums.
Despite the weight of evidence, a number of governments have considered new restrictions on vaping, rather than make it more accessible. While often well intentioned most newly proposed regulations, such as flavour liquid bans or higher taxes, would disproportionately harm smokers who are trying to quit. This runs directly against the goal of beating cancer.
The EU Beating Cancer Plan is a massive opportunity to ramp up the fight against smoking. Lawmakers should include vaping in the plan as a harm reduction tool to prevent cancer. The European Union's institutions and governments should follow the lead of countries like the United Kingdom, Canada and New Zealand and encourage the use of vaping as a less harmful alternative for adult smokers.
If the European Union is serious about improving health, we must back vaping to beat cancer.
About the World Vapers' Alliance
The World Vapers’ Alliance (WVA) amplifies the voice of passionate vapers around the world and empowers them to make a difference for their communities. The alliance partners with 19 groups representing vapers worldwide and represents individual vapers. Michael Landl, the WVA’s director, is an experienced policy professional and a passionate vaper.
Does #COVID-19 represent a mortal threat to the tobacco sector?
The SARS-CoV-2 pandemic has spelled bad news on the whole for smokers and the industry which supplies them. The most recent developments include the debunking of research that suggests smokers are supposedly less susceptible to the virus – accompanied by revelations that in fact the habit exacerbates the effects of the disease – as well as a public smoking ban in Galicia that has now spread across the whole of Spain.
With over one million smokers in the UK having reportedly kicked the habit since the onset of COVID-19, how great a threat does the current crisis represent to the industry which profits from their addiction? Public awareness of the dangers of smoking have never been higher, meaning the time is ripe for authorities in Europe and elsewhere to introduce measures aimed at curbing the deadly practice – but they must be wary of interference and prevarication from the ever-tenacious tobacco industry itself.
Big Tobacco under threat
At the outset of the coronavirus outbreak, smokers may have been initially cheered to hear the results of a study from China, where they were disproportionately underrepresented among sufferers of Covid-19. Subsequent research has not brought nearly such positive news; more than one peer-reviewed paper has found smokers are roughly twice as likely to experience coronavirus symptoms as non-smokers. This aligns with other studies, which found that smokers with the virus were twice as likely to be hospitalized and 1.8 times more likely to die than their non-smoking counterparts.
The addiction isn’t just damaging to those holding the cigarette, either. With bar patrons urged to keep their voices down and even theme park goers warned against screaming for fear of transmitting the virus orally, the huge clouds of smoke emitted by tobacco enthusiasts could be an ambient epidemic waiting to happen. Aware of the danger, South Africa took immediate action to ban tobacco sales in late March, although it has since revisited those restrictions. More recently, the Spanish region of Galicia and the Canary Islands archipelago both announced public smoking would be prohibited, with the rest of the country considering following suit.
The pandemic hasn’t just prompted a response from lawmakers – smokers are also reconsidering their relationship with tobacco in light of the dangers posed by the highly contagious and deadly respiratory disease. In the UK, over a million smokers have quit in the last six months, with 41% of those claiming fears of coronavirus were their primary motivation for doing so. Meanwhile, the University College London found that more people have given up smoking in the year up to June 2020 than in any other 12-month window since records began over a decade ago.
Underhanded tactics at play
Never one to take such setbacks lying down, Big Tobacco has resorted to its tried and tested tactical playbook. Among other machinations, that playbook involves obfuscating and influencing the science by funding favorable studies on the subject of coronavirus and smoking, delaying anti-tobacco regulations and claiming the industry comprises an “essential business” to avoid lockdown measures in places as diverse as Italy, Pakistan and Brazil.
At the same time, major tobacco firms have been accused of crisis-washing. Philip Morris International (PMI) donated a reported $1 million to the Romanian Red Cross and 50 ventilators to a Greek hospital, as well as an estimated €350,000 to a Ukrainian charity, with other big players reportedly having done the same. Critics claim these apparently altruistic contributions are nothing more than opportunistic PR stunts which capitalize on a global tragedy to paint Big Tobacco in a positive light – something which the industry itself vehemently rejects.
Regardless of the intent behind the donations, there are heavy suspicions that they may have contravened the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) protocol, which specifically prohibits governments or government-owned bodies from taking funds from the tobacco industry. Unsurprisingly, this kind of chicanery is nothing new for Big Tobacco, who have been ploughing a similar furrow for decades. Unfortunately, it’s one that continues to yield advantages for those behind the yoke, despite efforts to curb their influence.
Ineptitude and inefficiency in the EU
EU policymakers have, disappointingly, demonstrated themselves to be particularly susceptible to the tobacco industry’s malignant influence. As detailed by the OCCRP, the EU has effectively handed over large parts of its track and trace (T&T) system for illicit tobacco to firms with close ties to the industry. The system, which the FCTC has highlighted as an integral step in clamping down on a black market that costs the bloc over €10 billion per annum in lost public revenue, is intended to monitor a packet’s progress at each stage of the supply chain via a unique identifier, thus eliminating any opportunity for wrongdoing.
A central element of any successful T&T system, as defined by the Illicit Trade Protocol (ITP), is its complete independence from the industry itself. However, the OCCRP investigation has uncovered how key firms developing T&T software and handling the process have ties to the tobacco industry, including seven out of eight of the companies tasked with storing the all-important cigarette data. Meanwhile, one of the main companies monitoring hundreds of supply lines into the EU – Inexto – appears to be at least partially funded by Big Tobacco, while the very software it uses to carry out its obligations was purchased from PMI themselves for a rumored fee of just one Swiss franc.
The whole process is so riddled with inefficiencies that nine months after its implementation, insiders have said they have no idea how effective it has been in clamping down on the illegal trade, while one official from the UK’s trading standards office has called it “completely useless”. Nonetheless, EU officials have travelled the world touting the benefits of their system and several nations have already bought into the myth, with Inexto winning contracts from Mexico, Pakistan, Russia, and governments in Western Africa to date. The Pakistani contract, at least, has since been invalidated by court order.
A vaccine for industry influence
At a time when the Covid-19 crisis has thrown health concerns into sharp relief, governments and health groups should be taking a page out of the obesity debate book and generating momentum towards cutting smoking rates in their territories. While that momentum does seem to be gaining ground, it sadly does not appear to have escaped the pervasive and pernicious influence of the industry itself, which undermines the entire process.
Big Tobacco’s stratagems are widely documented and well understood – but this knowledge does not seem to be capable of preventing their success all the same. In addition to a vaccine for this deadly new coronavirus, it seems immunity against industry intervention should also be on the EU’s priority list.