ETHRA and partners have today, Tuesday 19 October, written to the Heads of Delegation of the European Parties to the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), in advance of the 9th Conference of the Parties (COP9). We are calling on delegates to urge the WHO to modernise its approach to tobacco policy, and to include tobacco harm reduction in the FCTC. We attached the recent expert letter, signed by 100 specialists in nicotine science, policy and practice, which calls on the Parties to the FCTC to take a positive stance on tobacco harm reduction. Read our letter to delegates below.
ETHRA letter to the Heads of Delegation of the European Parties for the FCTC
We write in anticipation of the FCTC 9th Conference of the Parties (COP9) to urge you to take into consideration the views of the millions of ex-smokers who have vastly improved their health by switching to smoke-free low-risk alternatives to cigarettes.
We ask that tobacco harm reduction measures be incorporated into current tobacco control measures, as per Article 1(d) of the FCTC, which includes tobacco harm reduction in the definition of tobacco control.
WHO has consistently downplayed or denied the health opportunities of tobacco harm reduction, overstated the risks and selectively chosen and misinterpreted science to make its case. WHO promotes prohibitions and excessive regulation of these smoke-free products but ignores the likely harmful unintended consequences of such measures, which would be more smoking, ill-health and unregulated black markets. Parties should expect and demand better science and policy analysis and be open to insights about the use of tobacco harm reduction to reduce the burden of disease from experts, consumers, and businesses with specialised knowledge.
The concept of “nothing about us, without us” is persistently ignored by the parties. As Consumers, we are most affected by disproportionate and reckless regulations, but we are locked out of any discussions. We are not listened to, we are not consulted, we are ignored.
ETHRA is a group of 23 grassroots consumer associations in 16 European countries, supported by experts in the field of tobacco control and nicotine research. We are the voice of 27 million European users of low-risk alternatives to smoking and far more potential users. We support tobacco harm reduction: helping and encouraging smokers to switch from high-risk to low-risk nicotine products as a practical public health strategy that will work quickly and at scale, not just in the EU but globally. We are a voluntary operation, we have no industry funding, or conflicts of interest. Our transparency register number is 354946837243-73.
As ex-smokers we understand better than anyone how difficult quitting smoking can be. Most of us made many unsuccessful quit attempts using traditional cessation methods, and it wasn’t until we found safer nicotine products that we were finally able to quit smoking and remain smoke free. Vapes, snus, nicotine pouches and heated tobacco products are proving to be hugely popular and successful methods of quitting smoking in the EU.
We attach a letter from 100 independent experts in tobacco and nicotine science and policy, and we urge you to take our views and the views of these highly respected experts into account. The recommendation on tobacco harm reduction from this expert group will save millions of lives. However, the unintended consequences of regulating safer nicotine products out of existence would be catastrophic.
One hundred specialists call for WHO to change its hostile stance on tobacco harm reduction – [link]
Expert statements on WHO and tobacco harm reduction – [link]
ETHRA’s monthly roundup of news: Tobacco tax consultation summary report & data published – BECA draft report receives pro-THR amendments - New WHO report, same prohibitionist recommendations – France support for THR - NNA UK call to action - ETHRA announces new partner – Country updates. Read on for more.
Tobacco tax public consultation
A summary of the Open Public Consultation on the revision of the Tobacco Taxation Directive, which ran from 30 March to 22 June, is available to download together with all the raw data of the submissions. The majority of questions in the consultation were in relation to smoked tobacco, but the consultation also addressed the taxation of ‘new products’ such as vapour products and heated tobacco products. According to the summary (page 7):
“The prevailing view among all categories of stakeholders was that an EU minima for heated tobacco products should be set at the same level as fine cut tobacco and that e-cigarettes should be taxed at the lower proposed levels (EUR 0.10 per ml) or according to consumers themselves at a zero minimum rate.”
It should be noted that Figure 18 in the summary report, which relates to the taxation of heated tobacco products, clearly shows that the majority of stakeholders across all categories were in favour of a taxation rate lower than the tax level applied to fine-cut tobacco, not at the same level as stated on page 7 of the summary.
Figure 18: If the EU establishes a minimum tax for heated tobacco, the tax amount should be...
Figure 19: If the EU establishes a minimum tax for e-cigarettes, the tax amount should be...
Download the Open Public Consultation (OPC) summary here:
The raw data of the submissions is available here:
Read ETHRA’s submission to the consultation:
BECA draft report amendments
The deadline for submitting amendments to the BECA Draft report closed on 14 September. Consideration of amendments will now take place on 14 October and 8 November, with a vote in committee scheduled for 6 December. According to a tweet by Rapporteur Véronique Trillet-Lenoir, a total of 1544 amendments were tabled.
Publicly available amendments that directly relate to vapour products were tabled by Italian MEPs Aldo Patriciello, Silvia Sardone, and Pietro Fiocchi. Their amendments aim to disassociate vaping from combustible tobacco, and shift the focus of the report towards a harm reduction approach.
Further amendments (539 - 853), available on the BECA website at the time of publishing this newsletter, call for the utilisation of harm reduction measures in regards to reducing smoking (page 4 & 15), and that cancer prevention has to be implemented in the context of an integrated chronic disease prevention programme, by establishing knowledge-based and risk proportionate regulatory standards (page 13). The majority of the amendments are however not publicly available yet.
Italian MEP amendments:
BECA draft report amendments 539 - 853:
Full list of BECA draft report amendments:
Framework Convention on Tobacco Control COP9
An informal videoconference of the members of the Working Party on Pharmaceuticals and Medical devices took place on 23 September. Preparation of the draft EU positions for the FCTC COP9 was on the agenda.
Check the link for information:
A new report from the WHO has once again called on policy-makers to apply extreme restrictions to safer nicotine products, including a ban on open system vapour products. This is just one of a number of reports which will be presented for information at COP9.
Framework Convention on Tobacco Control main documents for COP9:
The French National Cancer Institute published a health brochure in which they advise that vaping can help with smoking cessation. Extracts from page 22-23
Read the brochure here (French):
A draft law that would prohibit all e-liquid flavours, apart from tobacco, has been introduced by the Seimas (Parliament). A TRIS notification period is now open for contributions and will close on 11 October. We strongly urge all consumers to contribute your thoughts on the importance of having a wide variety of e-liquid flavours.
Check the link for more information and to read ETHRA’s submission:
The public consultation on amendments to the “Tobacco Damage Act,” which would raise the age to vape to 25 and implement an e-liquid flavour ban, has now closed. ETHRA partner Nikan said in their response: “Nikan believes it will fail smokers by not facilitating tobacco harm reduction, and that we see it as a violation of the Public Health Act §1 on public health work.”
Read more at the link:
Several popular brands of vaping products and accessories may disappear from shelves in Sweden. The shortage of products is due to a failure to pay registration fees, which is a legal requirement.
The New Nicotine Alliance UK are calling on consumers to contact their MPs in order to safeguard safer nicotine products against the threats posed by the WHO.
We are delighted to announce that Portuguese consumer group Ohms do Vapor has joined ETHRA as our newest partner. Ohms do Vapor is made up of passionate consumer advocates who aim to educate and inform consumers of safer nicotine products and promote tobacco harm reduction at national and EU levels. They are fully aligned with ETHRA's core principles and understand the importance of having a wide range of accessible, affordable, and appealing safer nicotine products to facilitate smoking cessation.
ETHRA NGO Partners:
The dangers of vaping misinformation
Professor Jamie Hartmann-Boyce discusses the harmful effects misinformation around the safety of vaping products can cause.
Must listen podcast
Ethan Nadelmann, founder of the New York-based Drug Policy Alliance, questions Clive Bates in this not to be missed podcast. Topics covered include vaping, nicotine, harm reduction and related science and policy.
Something to watch:
Interview with John Britton
Professor John Britton discusses the UK’s approach to tobacco harm reduction and the positive impacts this has had on smoking cessation, and offered this advice to countries: “Implement conventional tobacco control measures as fully as you can and complement those with Tobacco Harm Reduction. It's an approach that works.”
On 8 July 2021, the Parliament of the Republic of Lithuania notified the European Commission of its intention to amend article 9(2) of Law No I-1143 on the control of tobacco, tobacco products and related products, which relates to e-liquids to be used in vaping products. The draft law would prohibit all e-liquid flavours, apart from tobacco, and would apply to non-nicotine containing e-liquids as well as nicotine containing e-liquids. A TRIS notification period is now open for contributions and will close on 11 October. You can read ETHRA’s contribution here.
ETHRA’s monthly roundup of news: WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control main documents released - BECA Interparliamentary Committee Meeting announced - Lithuania flavour ban notification - New ETHRA survey page & YouTube video - Country updates. Read on for more.