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  • The “informal" working group aims to "prepare the revision of the TPD". There will be no official or public documents relating to the group’s work.
  • The group is led by controversial MEP Rivasi. Rivasi attempted to give anti-vaxxer Andrew Wakefield a platform as recently as 2017.
  • Rivasi calls for "stricter supervision of e-cigarettes” after what she calls “the notice of harmfulness issued by the World Health Organization in July 2020".
  • It is unclear which WHO “notice” Rivasi is referring to, but it is clearly not the WHO Europe report released in May, which is broadly supportive of tobacco harm reduction.

WHO?

In a letter sent on 27 October to European authorities, including Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Union, Michèle Rivasi calls for a "stricter supervision of e-cigarettes after the notice of harmfulness issued by the World Health Organization in July 2020". It is unclear which WHO “notice” Rivasi is referring to, but it is clearly not WHO Europe’s brief from May, which is supportive of tobacco harm reduction. Rivasi claims that stricter measures could "worry the tobacco companies". Any consideration of smokers or vapers is completely absent from the letter.

The letter was sent by Rivasi and colleagues who are, in her words: “members of the informal parliamentary working group ‘to prepare the revision of the tobacco directive’”.

According to the letter published on Rivasi’s website, she is joined by MEPs Manuel Bompard (France, Insoumise), Cristian-Silviu Buoi (Romania, Liberal Party), Tilly Metz (Luxembourg, Greens) and Younous Omarjee (France, Insoumise). The identity of the other members is shrouded in mystery. This lack of transparency extends to all aspects of the working group; as it is "informal" we can expect no public documents, minutes from its meetings, nor even a public list of its members.

Rivasi’s group is manoeuvring in the shadows to prevent any debate around harm reduction, and to impose anti vaping measures before the TPD review.

STRICTER FRAMEWORK

Michèle Rivasi had already demanded a stricter framework for vaping on February 18, at a meeting between the European Parliament’s ENVI Committee and the European Commission. Her speech then was littered with the anti-vaping language elements of the Bloomberg network - hence, perhaps, its inconsistencies on the state of regulation in Europe.

In addition to an immediate ban on vaping flavours, Rivasi called for measures which are already in place in the current TPD directive, such as advertising restrictions and health warnings on packaging. She also called for measures which actually fall under the jurisdiction of Member States and are already widely applied, such as bans on sales to minors. Not just ignorant of the European regulatory environment for vaping, Rivasi also revealed that she is quite unfamiliar with the science too, proclaiming that “we know nothing”. See Michèle RIVASI, an MEP ready to ruin the miracle of vaping for French blog Vap’you’s analysis.

ANTI SCIENCE

If Michèle Rivasi can ignore the scientific analyses of Public Health England , the Royal College of Physicians (UK), the National Academy of Medicine in France, or of German harm reduction experts , this is not unusual for her. The green MEP regularly contests “official” science, and has criticised vaccines, conventional medicine, waves and nuclear power. Michèle Rivasi recently appeared at an anthroposophical conference on the treatment of cancer but then denied that she supports anthroposophical medicine.

Michèle Rivasi also insists that she is not an an anti-vaxxer . However, in 2017, she invited Andrew Wakefield  to the European Parliament, for a showing of his film Vaxxed.  The screening was cancelled following a blog post , in turn unpublished under pressure. Andrew Wakefield had been struck off the UK medical register back in 2010, for his 1998 paper which had falsified the results of a study of 12 children to claim links between the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccination and the occurrence of autism. MMR vaccination rates in the UK dropped off sharply following Wakefield’s paper, leading to an increase in measles cases. It is astonishing that a MEP could want to give Wakefield a platform, 7 years after his name had been erased from the medical register. 

A WORRYING CHOICE

It is very worrying that this informal TPD working group - working on a public health issue which affects a quarter of the European population - is led by such a personality. By taking orders from an openly anti-harm reduction activist, the working group is on course to reject the data, the reality on the ground and the experience of users. The experiences of tens of millions of consumers and thousands of health professionals working in the field will be ignored, along with the science.

This is a short adaptation of Vapolitique’s article, published on 5 November
L'anti-vape Michèle Rivasi dirige un groupe de travail "informel" de députés européens sur la TPD