Guest post from ANESVAP, Spanish THR consumer association and ETHRA partner.
Last week the Spanish Ministry of Health published a horrifyingly biased report on e-cigarettes. We believe that the purpose of the report is to justify e-liquid flavour bans and punitive taxation on vaping products, proposals which are expected in 2021.
The Spanish government’s report shares striking similarities with the recently published SCHEER preliminary Opinion on e-cigarettes, a key element of the review report of TPD2. Scientists and other experts have roundly criticised the SCHEER preliminary Opinion for lacking objectivity and ignoring evidence. We are now waiting to see if SCHEER can redeem their reputation with the final Opinion, expected next month. Unfortunately, there is no such hope for the Spanish report, as the final version - which was issued without any public consultation - is already published.
COVID has shown us how vital it is for governments to issue accurate and evidence-based information on matters of science, but the Spanish Health Ministry has ignored this lesson. The report makes many false statements and cherry picks evidence in order to justify its conclusions that vaping products should be regulated in the same way as combustible tobacco products. Here are some of the report’s failings:
- Ignores huge volume of studies which show that vaping helps smokers to quit
- Attempts to show that restrictive regulations are needed to avoid youth uptake, when there is no evidence of the so-called “gateway effect” in Europe
- Uses “EVALI” as a scare tactic, despite the lung disease outbreak being isolated to the US and having nothing to do with e-cigarettes
- Falsely presents Public Health England’s findings that vaping is at least 95% safer than smoking as a minority opinion
- Hides that PHE’s position has been updated 5 times since 2015 and pretends that evidence has disproved it
- Refers in several places to the effects of combustion, despite there being no combustion involved in vaping
- Says that e-cigarettes are “advertised as harmless” when any such advertising is prohibited under the TPD
- Claims that nicotine has an adverse effect on Covid, when the evidence so far suggests the opposite
- Says that harm reduction is a commercial strategy, conveniently ignoring the experiences of an estimated 68m vapers worldwide, who have chosen to adopt the far less harmful alternative to smoking.
A possible economic motive for denigrating these very popular alternatives to cigarettes is revealed by the report’s recommendation that vaping products should be taxed along the same lines as combustible tobacco products.
Spain has a very real smoking problem: 34% of the population smokes every day and smoking rates are at the same level as in 2005. France and the UK, by contrast, have seen smoking rates drop, as governments there are open to the opportunities offered by tobacco harm reduction.
Anesvap’s Ángeles Muntadas-Prim Lafita is appalled that her government should want to restrict access to the popular and effective exit ramp from smoking:
“The Spanish Ministry of Health, facing the scandal of having its smoking rates escalating to reach those of 2005, diverts its responsibility with a biased and unscientific report that requires the immediate resignation of its General Director of Public Health, Pilar Aparicio. A position statement in which PHE is slandered, where a Machiavellian use of the Estudes data is made and almost completely based on the SCHEER draft which has not even reached its final conclusion by the EU, is simply a report that lacks a scientific basis and denies the real experiences of hundreds of thousands of people who have managed to give up smoking thanks to these products. It is from the successful experiences of the consumers that we know of the effectiveness of vaping as a mechanism for smoking cessation, just as it is from a scientific point of view that we know of its merits as a harm reduction tool to fight smoking. The Ministry of Health will find us users in the front line, armed with the scientific evidence and our successful experiences.”
The mood music in Europe is now extremely worrying, with Denmark and the Netherlands also expected to bring in anti tobacco harm reduction laws next year. These national level policies will have regional and even global effects, as member state positions influence the TPD2 review, and the outcome of the review will determine the EU’s position for WHO’s COP9, in November 2021. We should all be very concerned.
The report: INFORME SOBRE LOS CIGARRILLOS ELECTRÓNICOS: SITUACIÓN ACTUAL, EVIDENCIA DISPONIBLE Y REGULACIÓN (LINK)
The Global State of Tobacco Harm Reduction 2020 report estimates there are 68m vapers worldwide (LINK)