ETHRA is pleased to welcome some promising news from Norway.
The Norwegian government has declared that it will lift its ban on e-cigarettes with nicotine and replace it with an authorisation system as it belatedly moves to implement the EU’s Tobacco Products Directive (TPD). Manufacturers of e-cigarettes and new tobacco products will have to apply for authorisation at least six months before they intend to put their product on the market, as the TPD requires. The government is also planning to allow e-cigarettes and refill containers to be advertised at the point of sale and be presented online neutrally, unlike cigarettes.
The Norwegian Directorate of Health, which will evaluate the applications, will look at “whether the product will contribute to tobacco harm reduction;” whether it appeals to youngsters; whether it will lead to the initiation and re-normalisation of tobacco use; and whether it’s addictive, according to draft rules sent to notify the European Commission at the end of November.
The directorate will then decide whether the e-cigarette or novel tobacco product is defined as a nicotine or smokeless tobacco product, or a tobacco product for smoking, and which regulations should apply to it. This measure goes beyond the scope of the TPD.
“Legalising vaping in Norway is a welcoming development and we congratulate our government for aligning with the EU’s TPD,”, says Trond Meier, of Norsk Dampselskap/Norwegian Union of Vapers, a consumer-led association which advocates for vaping in Norway, “however, there is still much negative publicity around vaping in the media and many details still to become clear so our welcome must be cautious for now. There is still more work for us and our ETHRA partners to do.”.
André Bendigtsen, of Nikan, the tobacco harm reduction consumer group, adds: “We understand that these proposals will be implemented during 2020 and we would suggest that the government includes consumers of reduced risk products in the process at every stage.”, André continues, “these products offer a lifeline to many former smokers and can lead to better outcomes for the public’s health in Norway in the future. Consumers are ready and available to offer our experience and knowledge to regulators in order to maximise the many benefits of safer nicotine use.”.
Norsk Dampselskap was established on 6 November 2011 and has over 4,000 members.
The Norwegian Institute of Public Health has just published a new report on the use of Swedish Snus. However, instead of celebrating the remarkable impact that snus has had on smoking rates in Norway, the Institute has chosen to focus on minimal risks as if to deter use of one of the safest forms of nicotine in existence.
The report speculates on a host of “probable” and “possible” negative outcomes despite snus being definitely orders of magnitude safer than smoking which it is replacing. It also worries unnecessarily about the increase in Norwegian snus users who had not previously smoked, despite it being certain that many of those would have gone on to use the most harmful nicotine delivery system – cigarettes – if snus was not readily accessible.
The truth is that snus has delivered considerable success in Norway, with Government figures showing that smoking has almost disappeared among young Norwegian women, especially. In 2001 the smoking rate among females aged 16 to 24 was 30%. By 2017 that had collapsed to just 1%. Over the same period smoking among young Norwegian men fell from 29% to 3%.
These data illustrate the game-changing potential of reduced risk nicotine products to better the Norwegian population’s health, which could only bring further benefits now e-cigarettes have been legalised.
“The significant switch from smoking towards the use of snus in the past two decades has been an unmitigated success,”, says André Bendigtsen, of Nikan, a consumer-led association which advocates for tobacco harm reduction in Norway, “rather than exaggerating negligible health risks, the NIPH should be celebrating the fact that smoking prevalence has collapsed by smokers choosing to use safer products without any cost to taxpayers.”
“Why is the NIPH so intent on creating doubt about the indisputable role that snus played in improving the public’s health in our country and, instead, seems to want to scare the public into avoiding less harmful nicotine use?
“Rather than amplifying negative messages about snus, the NIPH should be recognising that harm reduction works, and should be embracing the use of other safer products such as e-cigarettes too.”, André Bendigtsen continues, “Banning vaping in public places sends the message that there is no benefit in switching to a safer option, this has to change. We would encourage government and policy-makers in Norway to talk to consumers such as us and hear our stories of how snus and vaping have transformed our lives for the better, and why authorities should rejoice in the positive change rather than trying to suppress it”.
Vaping: Reassuring the public is a public health imperative
At the 3rd Sommet de la Vape in Paris, around twenty experts discussed vaping as a way to provide millions of years of healthy life to millions of ex-smokers.
Chaired by Jean Pierre Couteron, who guaranteed an ethical framework, the event opened with the release of a survey conducted by BVA and commissioned by SOVAPE: The alarming headline figures were that three in five French people think that vaping is at least as dangerous as smoking (if not more) and 80% believe that nicotine is carcinogenic.
The precautionary principle acting against risk reduction
Antoine Deutsch of the National Cancer Institute (INCa) regretted the demonisation of nicotine. Jacques Le Houezec blamed the confusion created by the considerable media attention given to cherrypicked sections from WHO reports and the current US crisis - which has been caused by adulterated products and not by e-liquids sold from reputable suppliers.
At least 700,000 people have quit smoking since 2014 which, as Viet Nguyen Thanh of Santé Publique France explained, presents 100 million euros of annual savings for health insurance according to estimates by Prof. Benoit Vallet, Director General of Health from 2013 to 2018, or 6 million American lives saved, or 88 million years of life by the end of the century, according to the calculations of Professor David Levy, Georgetown University of Washington. Like England and the United States, the French data presented by Stanislas Spilka of the OFDT prove that vaping is not a gateway to smoking.
Millions of lives and years of life to save
Dr. Olivier Véran, MP for Isère (LREM) regretted this French reluctance to trust risk reduction that Anglo-Saxon embrace more readily. Dr. Léonie Brose, Dr. Lion Shahab and Louise Ross, speakers at the Summit, confirmed interest from smokers towards giving up tobacco that kills every second user, in favour of the low-risk products like e-cigarettes. They presented statistics from their fight against smoking in the English population, which has seen a decline, since 2012, from 20% to 15%. This success was highlighted by French speakers, Dr Anne Borgne, President of Respadd, Dr Marion Adler, Doctor of Tobacco Studies, Pr Bertrand Dautzenberg, Respiratory Doctor and Coordinator of the first report on vaping for the Ministry of Health, and Dr. William Lowenstein, President of SOS-Addictions.
Nicotine is not carcinogenic; vaping is much less harmful than smoking
A few days before the start of tobacco free month, SOVAPE calls on the minister, the authorities and health agencies to send clear messages to smokers:
SOVAPE once again thanks all its partners, stakeholders and the public, including health professionals, who were highly motivated after 9 hours of conference to relay the message to their colleagues and patients in the field. Videos of the presentations will be freely available on the internet in a few weeks.
Also available to download, HERE
An article in the Tobacco Control Journal by a Finnish public health advocate has urged the EU to change its policy towards vaping products in the Tobacco Products Directive (TPD). ETHRA fully rejects the reasoning contained in the article and we are shocked that a member state can attempt to impose its extreme position on others in the EU by advocating for prohibitions not welcome elsewhere.
Eeva Ollila of the Cancer Society of Finland boasts that her country’s extreme anti-nicotine policy is being inconvenienced by the EU treading a path which accepts reduced risk products as a valid option for smokers seeking to quit. Her insistence that Finland’s approach should be forced on other member states by imploring the EU to change sensible regulation in favour of restrictions which go against the considered policies of many in the EU who are comfortable with the TPD is wrong.
Finland may wish to eradicate nicotine use, but it is arrogant to presume that all 27 member states should do the same. The EU has sensible regulation under the TPD which is working to reduce smoking. Finland is an extreme outlier and should not be dictating their outlandish and evidence-light view of harm reduction to more enlightened countries.
A race to the precautionary bottom is not how the EU works at its most efficient for its population. Regulators in Brussels should roundly dismiss the bully-boy tactics of a member state which chooses blind prejudice instead of a progressive and modern approach to reducing harm from tobacco use, which the EU, wisely, chose to implement in its TPD in 2014.
“Ms Ollila is out of step with the rest of Europe,”,says Jari Ollikka, of Vapers Finland, “it is already damaging to the Finnish public to pursue a thoughtless anti-nicotine policy which deters smokers from switching to safer products, but to attempt to export ignorant policy-making to other member states is an embarrassment to our country.”
“Far from trying to impose an extremist anti-nicotine policy on others by way of draconian EU legislation, Finland should be taking a lead from a majority of their neighbours who recognise harm reduction as a way of encouraging smokers to migrate to less harmful products.
“Vapers Finland urges the public health community to engage with Finnish consumers to learn how safer nicotine products are not a threat to our public’s health, but rather a benefit.”, Jari Ollikka continues, “We stand ready to meet with the government and regulators at any time to give our insights as to how vaping has helped many thousands of our citizens to quit tobacco use. We do not lead Europe by advocating mindless anti-nicotine rhetoric, instead we sadly trail other nations by not recognising that the modern world has new solutions that we should also be embracing.”