The Independent European Vape Alliance held an eConference where experts spoke about the new Tobacco Products Directive (TPD) process and probable impact on countries and vapers. The event included Patricia Kovacevic, lawyer and global regulatory expert, Peter Becket, founder of vapingdotcom, and Clive Bates, The Counterfactual.
IEVA founding members are spokesmen to the European institutions, saying it provides TAXUD with industry information to clear the perspective on e-cigarette taxes and hosts events in the EU parliament to give first-hand information about the benefits of a suitable vaping legislation for the European public.
The event covered:
- When is the TPD likely to be revised, and what might the outcomes be?
- What role is IEVA playing in educating the EU institutions about harm reduction?
- How will the Commission design a new proposal?
- When and how will Parliament vote?
- What role is there for national governments?
- How can industry and consumers get involved?
Peter Becket began by referring to the recent SCHEER report, which concluded:
- The evidence for risks of local irritative damage to the respiratory tract is moderate for heavy users not to be excluded for average and light users
- The evidence for risks of long-term systemic effects on the cardiovascular system is strong
- The evidence for risks of carcinogenicity of the respiratory tract is weak to moderate
- The evidence for risks of poisoning and injuries due to burns and explosion is strong
- There is no evidence that flavourings pose health risks but may enhance attractiveness
- They think there is moderate evidence that second-hand vaping exists, poses a threat to bystanders and can be carcinogenic to them
- The committee thinks there is strong evidence that vaping is a gateway to tobacco use, especially in youth
- There is weak evidence to support the idea that vaping works as a quit smoking tool
Mr Becket demonstrated the legislative process that is underway, how the SCHEER report features within it, and how it will influence the outcome of the next TPD – commonly refered to as TPD3. He explained how the first stage will be completed during 2022, and Phase 2 will be completed around 2024.
The European Council, made up of representatives of the governments of member states, will strike pieces of the proposals out and add others in during Phase 1. Then the process moves to the European Parliament which will make amendments, adopted by the public health committee, and then adopted by whole house.
This latter stage was where vapers and consumer organisations scored a major victory during the last TPD process. There was a strong move to medicalise vaping, meaning that we would have to get prescriptions from GPs in order to buy vape products and eliquids. A concerted effort to influence politicians paid dividends – notably vapers sharing their personal stories with their local MEPs.
The direction of travel for the EU Commission will be to relate TPD3 to their cancer policy. The EU Parliament has already debated the EVALI outbreak in the United States and this features in the SCHEER report.
“Combustion is not non-combustion,” Becket said. “Vapers have to voice the message loudly, politicians will listen.”
Peter Becket also explained how the TPD3 process is now closely tied to the World Health Organization’s Framework for Tobacco Control (FCTC) Conference of Parties (COP), with legislative drafting now coinciding with FCTC COP9 and the final stages coinciding with FCTC COP10.
“The clarity of the message has to be: ‘Vaping isn’t smoking, it shouldn’t be regulated as smoking. Smoking kills half of its users, vaping is 95% safer, and by denying smokers the opportunity to switch you are supporting smokers continuing to smoke’” – Peter Becket
Patricia Kovacevic highlighted that one of the problems last time around was that scientists didn’t really engage, interact, meet up, or submit contributions to TPD2. Most stuck by a mantra that they were scientists and not politicians, but this resulted in corrupt pseudoscience being accepted as fact.
She said how associations and alliances, independent vaping companies, and consumer groups are in the best position to engage with the bodies. “It’s vital they are aware of deadlines,” she said. “Soft interaction/lobbying is essential and the most effective form of engagement.”
“Losing the UK is losing a voice of reason in the process” – Patricia Kovacevic
Although all three participants lamented the loss of a British voice to the process this time around, vapers can help the New Nicotine Alliance oppose the worst aspect of TPD3 as the organisation is working hard with ETHRA and lending its voice to support those from other European organisations.
Clive Bates slammed the SCHEER report as “a terrible piece of work” and referred viewers to his comprehensive take-down of it on his blog. He stated that expert groups form opinions then seek evidence to service what they think is right, and that it’s not a new phenomenon or restricted to the SCHEER committee.
Perfectly safe products are useless if nobody uses them, he continued, and that tobacco control aims to degrade the value of vaping by attacking each benefit it confers. Ultimately, this concludes with a situation where, “if you make them less accessible, more expensive, less effective, inhibit innovation – you will cause harm by perpetuating smoking”.
“Users are absolutely critical in this, they made crucial difference in TPD2, MPs and MEPs listen to stories, they are moved by experiences, they are moved by authentic stories from constituents. It is vital to join a consumer organisation or a trade organisation – they are force magnifiers – they help you with the complexity, when to write, what to write, who to write to” – Clive Bates
Clive mentioned that he feels a proposed ban on flavours is almost inevitable. Estonia, Lithuania, Denmark, and Finland have or are in the process of eradicating choice.
“This is one of the terrible things of tobacco control policy making – they should evidence what impact it will have and weigh up pros and cons. People don’t evaluate these policies so you can’t hold people putting bans in place to account. Are people DIYing, are they returning to smoking – they should pay to find out.”