Yesterday’s news in the Netherlands has focussed on a call by the Association of Physicians for Pulmonary Diseases and Tuberculosis (NVALT) to ban all e-cigarette use in the country.
Spokesman Leon van den Toorn is quoted in the media saying that “worrying developments” have led to his demand for “a total ban on electronic cigarettes”. In response, State Secretary for Health Paul Blokhuis is reported to be “very curious” about “the latest medical insights from Leon van den Toorn and his colleagues” and wants to “involve their findings in the ongoing research into the health risks of e-cigarettes”.
Dutch consumer organisation and ETHRA partner ACVODA welcome Mr Blokhuis investigating this policy area but insist that all stakeholders should be consulted before the government embarks on legislative bans which could have a devastating impact on the health of Dutch smokers and ex-smokers, and consumers should be central to that.
“There is absolutely no justification for banning all e-cigarettes in the Netherlands”, says Sander Aspers, Chair of ACVODA, “Mr van den Toorn is basing his case on very one-sided and selective slides presented at a conference in Madrid last week from people ideologically opposed to any harm reduction alternatives, and has discounted the widely-reported health opportunities which reduced risk products can offer.”
“Mr Blokhuis rightly states that vaping products are allowed and strictly regulated by the EU Tobacco Products Directive, so a complete ban is out of the question. If he wants to investigate the matter diligently to the benefit of all citizens of the Netherlands, it is imperative that he meet with consumer representatives to hear our many success stories with e-cigarettes. Surely, he should see that proposing a ban on safer nicotine products which have helped hundreds of thousands of Dutch people to quit smoking while the most dangerous delivery system – cigarettes – are free to be sold all over the country is madness. Talking only to vested interests and excluding the public from the conversation is not the actions of a proud democratic EU Member State.”
ACVODA is happy to meet with Mr Blokhuis at any time of his choosing, we believe it is imperative he does so. It is important that a drastic policy to ban all vapour products includes input from all stakeholders, most especially consumers whose lives will be heavily impacted by this ill-advised threat. Published evidence reviews from respected European health bodies endorse the many benefits of reduced risk products, and there is a real danger to Dutch public health if the consumer voice is not respected.
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It has come to our attention that there are some THC or CBD liquids and cartridges being sold online which contain potentially harmful ingredients. Liquids comprising oils (from any source) or vitamin E acetate are potentially harmful with even short term use and may cause life-threatening or life-changing conditions.
CBD to be vaped is a growing market and not illegal in most jurisdictions. Responsible sellers will place toxicology reports on their website to show that no pesticides have been involved in production and that the liquids are not oil-based. The THC content should be as close to zero as possible and not exceed 0.02%. If a seller cannot or will not provide this information, do not buy from them.
Several media outlets have reported on the suggestion this weekend from former Health Minister, James Reilly, that Ireland should ban flavours in e-cigarette liquids. He has been a long-time sceptic towards safer nicotine products and appears to be trying to conflate e-cigarettes - which are strictly regulated in Ireland under the EU Tobacco Products Directive - with illegal oil-based THC solutions which have been causing illness and deaths in the USA.
Reilly is currently standing for re-election in Dublin representing Fine Gael and, as a result, his party press released his comments on their website. He states that “Vapes are not ‘quit smoking’ devices” and that “While the science is still evolving, it is clear to me that we should not be making vaping an attractive prospect”.
Previously, Reilly stated in his government health role that he wanted to be on “evidence-based ground” when making policy decisions towards e-cigarettes, but he seems to have abandoned that in favour of an ideological approach which threatens to wipe out a major benefit of vaping in helping consumers avoid relapse. His justification is flawed. Making vaping an attractive prospect would encourage far more smokers to switch to vaping – which Reilly accepts is “safer than regular tobacco” - to join the substantial number of Irish vapers who have, indeed, already successfully used them as a quit smoking device.
"It's disappointing to see vaping being used as an election gambit”, said Tom Gleeson of ETHRA partner NNA Ireland, “especially from a doctor who should know better. Tobacco harm reduction is a growing movement which is driving fast reduction of smoking rates in countries which implement sensible regulation. As Minister of Health, James Reilly launched a project to achieve a 'smoke-free Ireland', this suggestion would seriously obstruct such an aspiration and should be strongly resisted. If you are a constituent of Dublin Fingal who vapes, keep in mind when you vote in the upcoming by-election that Reilly intends to take your flavours away. We would also advise all Irish vapers to write to their elected representatives – especially if they are Fine Gael members - and politely explain why this policy suggestion should be abandoned.".
● European Tobacco Harm Reduction Advocates (ETHRA) is a new advocacy group in the tobacco harm reduction consumer space.
● ETHRA aims to coordinate and amplify the tobacco harm reduction voice in Europe, supporting millions of nicotine consumers.
Reduced risk products are providing a gateway out of smoking for millions of Europeans but they face many threats. Today sees the launch of ETHRA, a new group formed by consumers and other advocates, to promote sensible regulation of innovative solutions for those who wish to continue using nicotine in a far safer form.
Tobacco harm reduction is facing challenging times in Europe, as the EU Tobacco Products Directive review is already underway, and the WHO’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) Conference of the Parties will be held in the Netherlands in just over a year’s time.
ETHRA aims to co-ordinate and amplify the voices of European consumers - who have found a way out of smoking by way of products which are orders of magnitude safer than lit tobacco.
ETHRA partners and supporters will share information and coordinate action on regional issues, and support one another on national issues too, in keeping with five core principles:
1) We support tobacco harm reduction.
2) We know from personal experience and science that a variety of delivery methods and flavours enhances the ability of smokers to quit, and oppose any regulation that restricts this.
3) Regulation must always consider the minimal risks of harm reduced products versus the large risks of smoking and ensure that these are reflected.
4) We believe that the health and lives of adult smokers and ex-smokers should always be taken into account when quantifying the risk to young people.
5) Reduced risk products need to be affordable and there is no case to apply tobacco excise duties to products that offer a much safer alternative to smoking.
Tobacco harm reduction consumer groups welcome the new initiative:
“We are delighted to announce the launch of European Tobacco Harm Reduction Advocates (ETHRA)”, said Nathalie Dunand of SOVAPE, a French consumer association dedicated to greater awareness of the benefits of e-cigarette use, “smoking rates in European countries which regulate safer products sensibly have been declining at an unprecedented rate, it would be foolish to obstruct this progress. ETHRA aims to represent the interests of consumers of safer nicotine products across Europe and to spread the word into states which are still sceptical about the benefits of harm reduction”.
Sarah Jakes, of the UK charity New Nicotine Alliance said “Tobacco harm reduction has been an unprecedented success story in enlightened European states, yet the EU and the WHO appear eager to wind back the clock and impose harsh and ill-conceived restrictions on products which are saving lives. ETHRA is a welcome new consumer voice for the European region to fight for the rights of smokers and ex-smokers against counterproductive policymaking of nicotine use”.
André Bendigtsen of Nikan, a Norwegian harm reduction alliance for nicotine users, said:
"Nikan welcomes the opportunity to join the ETHRA initiative as it fits perfectly with our own values, visions and goals. Norway has not yet implemented the Tobacco Products Directive, so this is a great opportunity for us to share information and learn from countries which have experienced the various forms of TPD implementation."
"We decided to join ETHRA as soon as we heard about it," said Bengt Wiberg and Uwe Hille, the two founders of EUforsnus, the consumer crowd movement which campaigns to allow snus in the European Union. "We started #EUforsnus almost two years ago, to share the life vital information of The Swedish Experience of snus as a formidable lower risk alternative to smoking and we are pleased that partnering with ETHRA will enable us to work with other European consumer groups with an interest in tobacco harm reduction."
“We have always thought that through the right information and the diffusion of medical-scientific studies, the fight against combustion smoke could end quickly,'' says Carmine Canino, President of the Italian consumer association ANPVU. “The need to join forces to strengthen our voice and counter bad information is increasingly pressing. We have always hoped for collaboration with associations sensitive to the condition of abandonment by the institutions in which the vaping sector is in many countries and for this reason we are proud to be part of ETHRA.”
Mark Oates, founder of the Snus Users Association UK, concludes with: "At a time when lower risk products are being attacked from all sides around the world it is vital we have a platform to engage with both policy makers and the general public to explain how harm reduction works to save lives"
ETHRA has been formed to complement existing organisations and groups in increasing understanding about the benefits of “new” risk-reduced nicotine products and a better recognition of long-term recreational use of nicotine as a powerful incentive for smoking cessation.