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It has been reported that Germany’s federal drug commissioner is hoping to use her country’s imminent EU Presidency to further obstruct vaping products all over Europe.

Die Welt writes that Daniela Ludwig has identified an opportunity to transfer her distaste for reduced risk products to a wider audience as Germany takes up its six-month Presidency for the second half of 2020.

The 44-year-old politician from Rosenheim also relies on the European Union. Regulation is still different from country to country. From this summer, Germany will take over the EU Council Presidency. “We have the opportunity to talk to the countries about this. I would have already prepared a catalogue for the e-cigarette,” said Ludwig. For example, the rules on taxation or ingredients should be standardized.

The drug commissioner leaves no doubt about her overarching goal. "I want people to get away from the cigarette, whether it's a tobacco cigarette or some other product," said Ludwig.

Ludwig is in favour of both banning advertising of e-cigarettes and taxing liquids in Germany at the same rate as cigarettes, along with strictly restricting flavours, which are a vital attraction to vaping for former smokers.

This is despite a drug and addiction report of the Federal Government presented by Ludwig in 2019 concluding that e-cigarettes are significantly less harmful than smoking, and The Institute of Addiction Research at the University of Applied Sciences in Frankfurt declaring that the potential of e-cigarettes in Germany has been “massively underestimated”.

ETHRA is concerned at the possibility of damaging policies Germany’s Presidency may generate for vapers in EU member states and would hope that it uses its term of office wisely instead of installing naïve and unthinking regulation across the continent.

It should be noted that e-cigarettes have been regarded with suspicion by the German government, which boasts a smoking prevalence rate of 27.5%, exceeding that of states which liberally regulate vaping. Europe does not need to be lectured about e-cigarettes by Germany and the EU would be wrong to bind member states to counterproductive legislation on taxation, flavours and advertising with regard to safer nicotine products.

“It is disappointing that Ms Ludwig wishes to see failed policies from Germany transferred to the EU as a whole”, says Hendrik Broxtermann of ETHRA partner ExRaucher (IG), “Regulation of vaping under the current EU Tobacco Products Directive is not perfect but may just be acceptable. We should be seeking to improve the regulation we have by liberalising in some areas, not imposing more restrictions which can only protect the cigarette trade.

“Taxation of vaping products will deter millions of smokers from trying out safer products; banning or restricting flavours will take away a major factor in the appeal of vaping as a substitute for tobacco smoking; and banning advertising will make vastly safer products invisible to the very people who need to see them in order to facilitate more uptake for the good of Europe’s health.

"What Ms Ludwig should be doing is engaging with the people who use these products instead of pronouncing from an ideological position, while also ignoring her own scientific experts on the subject.”

The EU TPD review presents many threats to beneficial harm reduction options, so ETHRA would urge German vapers to petition their elected representatives to ensure that the German Presidency of the EU is used for good, not as an opportunity to put a halt to products which have led to significant declines in smoking in the EU.