EU Tobacco Policy: Total Lunacy


I’ve just attended a briefing event on the EU’s new Tobacco Directive.  Far from addressing the damage done by the previous Tobacco Directive, they’re making matters worse.

And the public has noticed.  I’ve been getting rather a lot of e-mails about e-cigarettes, and every one is saying “don’t ban them!”.  Many e-mails contain touching stories of smokers who’d struggled unsuccessfully to kick the habit, but finally succeeded with e-cigarettes.

Of course strictly speaking the EU is not proposing to “ban” e-cigarettes.  But they’re going to treat them as pharmaceutical products.  That means that they’ll only be available in pharmacies.  It means that there will be very heavy approval costs for each brand and type of e-cigarette.  That in effect will raise huge barriers to entry, and mean that only very large and prosperous companies will be able to enter the market.  Companies like the existing tobacco firms.

It will also be a vast barrier to innovation.  At the moment e-cigarettes are improving and developing rapidly.  But if each small enhancement needs pharmaceutical-level approval, change will be slow to come.  The proposed regulatory structure will mean limited distribution, few suppliers, and the same old products for years.

Why does it matter?  At the moment, they say that 700,000 people a year in Europe die of smoking.  Of course it’s their right to smoke, and I defend that right.  But I also recognise that many smokers want to give up, but struggle to do so, and find e-cigarettes a huge help.  Perhaps surprisingly, nicotine itself is not a particularly harmful drug.  It’s the thousands of substances in cigarette smoke that clog the lungs and cause cancer and other respiratory diseases.  And e-cigarettes deliver the nicotine without the smoke.

While there’s a huge amount of anecdotal evidence of the help that e-cigarettes offer smokers trying to quit, it’s early for extensive epidemiological evidence.  So it’s perhaps helpful that another non-smoking tobacco product has been in use in a European “test market” for several decades.  In Sweden and Norway they have a product called “snus”, which is like a small tea-bag of tobacco.  This product is legal in Sweden, but (bizarrely, in the Single Market) not in the rest of the EU.

Snus is held in the mouth, usually between the teeth and gums, and provides a supply of nicotine.  Frankly the whole idea sounds disgusting to me, but who am I to contest the choice of millions of Swedes and Norwegians?

While snus carries some risk, particularly of mouth cancers, it is dramatically safer than conventional cigarettes.  There is overwhelming and detailed research into the effect of the snus habit.  The incidence both of smoking and of lung cancer in Sweden is around half the average EU level.  There is clear evidence that switching to snus from cigarettes helps smokers to quit, and dramatically reduces health risks.  There are data to show that snus does not significantly increase the number of new tobacco users.

In fact the health benefits to the population, in terms of overall harm reduction, are overwhelming and proven.  And there is a clear read-across to e-cigarettes, which are plainly set to have the same effect.

Sadly, however, the European parliament is driven not by concern for public health, but by an irrational hatred of the tobacco industry and of anything containing the word “cigarette”, regardless of the real health implications.  They seem determined to vote through this nonsense, and to reject what could be the most dramatic health improvement that the EU could hope for.

This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

13 Responses to EU Tobacco Policy: Total Lunacy

  1. David says:

    It,s another “winner” from the eussr Roger, to add to their many other triumphs, CFP, CAP, Wind farms.

  2. PJ says:

    Inane though it sounds Roger, they have absolutely no proof that smoking claims 700,000 lives per annum in and around europe, it is just another figure plucked from the skies to suit their purposes. Anything and everthing that can possibly be attribute to smoking or even SHS is in that mercurial 700,000 per annum figure. And in actual fact, they still haven’t named 3 people who have died as a result of SHS as requested by Godfrey some 3 or 4 years ago!

  3. Charles Wardrop says:

    Another reason to justify Ed. Heath’s effigy’s replacement of poor old Guy Fawkes’s on bonfire night, and damn the carbon!

  4. nat merrill says:

    “Steinberg notes that in 2006, major U.S. cigarette companies bought the major smokeless tobacco brands. And the two major brands of snus? They’re from leading cigarette makers Altria/Philip Morris (Marlboro Snus) and RJ Reynolds (Camel Snus).”

    “Snus is being co-marketed with cigarettes,” Steinberg tells WebMD. “The companies are not shy in saying, ‘When you can’t smoke, use snus.’ But when you can smoke, it is clear they want you to smoke cigarettes. They make more money from cigarettes sales than anything else on the planet.

    The tobacco companies have already heard of SNUS! Does sound rather gross to use and those mouth cancers must be unpleasant. Needs further study before becoming a reasonable
    alternative to tobacco.

  5. nollyprott says:

    Typical EU Corporate-Nazi (welfare state for the stock market parasites) Fourth Reich anti free market in favour of monopoly false economic growth investment scam !

    First published April 2010

  6. Jane Davies says:

    What’s to stop people from ordering them online and bypassing the pharmacies?

    • David Usmar says:

      The Huffington Post .. look we know it makes sense not to inhale anything (least of all the air in the center of London at rush hour) but as an alternative to Cigarettes these are a step forward. I am on virtually zero nicotine now and not had a cigarette after being a smoker for 40 years .. next step is to stop vaping BUT it is a comfort to know at times of stress when smokers who have quit invariably restart that there is an alternative with no nicotine as a comfort …. and less harmful alternative.

      As to kids wanting to try them – there is hardly anything romantic, cool or enigmatic about ecigs least of all the tank ones that the EU has really focused on …

      Makes me laugh, will we see scales in a supermarket entrance and people being told “No you are too fat, you cannot buy any food today” .. or will we see contact sports banned because they cause too many injuries …

      It all adds up to me that exit from the EU would be a good thing .. free trade is great but a bureaucratic remote management by a parliament that does not act in accordance with the wishes of its voters is hardly democratic.

    • Adrian Hey says:

      Please don’t cite the Huffington post again:-)

      The real problem with e-cigs as far as national governments are concerned is that as an anti smoking measure they are just far too effective (I speak as an ex. smoker now “vaper” myself) and if nothing is done about them there’s a real danger that in 10 or 20 years time practically nobody will still be smoking. Oops, massive loss in tax revenues (about 12 billion in the UK alone).

      Hence absurdities like the outrageous article 20 of the TPD. It has nothing at all to do with protecting public health and everything to do with damaging the nascent industry as much as is practically possible short of an outright ban.

      Sadly there seem to be many useful idiots (perhaps even paid idiots) in the MSM who are only too happy to uncritically promulgate anti e-cig propaganda.I guess it’s all good clickbait if nothing else.

  7. neilfutureboy says:

    This suggests that such regulatory costs must be having a major effect on all progress in healthcare.

    I can understand why nobody wants another thalidomide on their watch. But an ongoing slowdown in health improvement is likely to cause orders of magnitudes more deaths.

    Perhaps we should have 2 classifications – pharmaceutical products and non-tested products. The latter being very clearly labelled as such. Pharmacy companies would have the choice of jumping through the hoops or not and customers would know they have no comeback if there are side effects.

    There are a considerable number of formulae that appear to have beneficial effects on longevity or preventing dementia and I think a lot people of a certain age would be quite willing to risk such side effects.

    If the EU feels defining things as pharmaceutical products will stifle their development we should assume they are correct.

  8. Geof says:

    This is not merely a smoking issue. What about drinkers. Why is it we have to pay £5-6 per pint for alcohol free beer when we are desperately trying give up the habit without being stigmatised standing in a bar with a soft drink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s