European Commission SCHEER scientific opinion on e-cigarettes – a guide for policymakers

“C’mon… we’ll never get away with that

Introduction

The SCHEER opinion on e-cigarettes

On 23 September 2020, the European Commissions’ Scientific Committee on Health, Environmental and Emerging Risks (SCHEER) provided its Preliminary Opinion on Electronic Cigarettes (context & abstract, preliminary report PDF).  This opinion is important because it is one input to the report on the implementation of the EU Tobacco Products Directive 2014/40/EC, under Article 28 of the Directive.  This review should complete by 20 May 2021, and it may form the basis for a further revision of the Tobacco Products Directive.  The Committee’s mandate (Request for Scientific Opinion) sets out its terms of reference.

Consultation

The preliminary scientific opinion is open for consultation responses until 26 October 2020. The consultation system is here: Public consultation on electronic cigarettes and looks designed to deter responses to the extent possible. ETHRA, European Tobacco Harm Reduction Advocates, provides guidance on responding here.  However, that is not the only way to respond to it, though responding directly is important.  Another way is to approach the people who are intended to make sense of and use the opinion – policymakers in EU member states and European Commission, politicians in the EU legislature, and stakeholders in the political policymaking process. This post is for them.

This post

In this post, I discuss why the SCHEER preliminary opinion offers no useful analysis or relevant insights to policymakers. It is not that the committee has not reviewed a lot of literature: it has. It stems from a more fundamental problem: a failure to frame the scientific knowledge in a way that will assist policymakers in considering what, if anything, to do next.  Though policymakers should be the primary audience, the report also provides little of value to other communities of interest – smokers, vapers, parents, public health or medical practitioners, or businesses.

It starts with reproducing the report abstract and then groups my advice to appropriately sceptical policymakers under ten headings. Continue reading “European Commission SCHEER scientific opinion on e-cigarettes – a guide for policymakers”

Time for the Government of Sweden to get behind snus and tobacco harm reduction

Stockholm Syndrome: is the Government of Sweden captured by baseless tobacco control dogma about snus?

One of the more puzzling things about snus is the reluctance of Sweden’s government to claim credit for what is by any standards an extraordinary public health achievement. So here I write to the relevant ministers requesting that they acknowledge Sweden’s success, show some leadership and promote the concept of tobacco harm reduction.  The challenge to the EU prohibition of snus brought by Swedish Match and New Nicotine Alliance provides an opportunity for the Government of Sweden to change its approach.  I wrote the following heartfelt plea, attaching the letter that 18 comrades sent sent to the European Commission: Lifting the unjustified European Union ban on oral tobacco or “snus” in the light of ongoing legal action hoping it might encourage a more constructive pro-health, pro-trade, post-enlightenment approach.  Continue reading “Time for the Government of Sweden to get behind snus and tobacco harm reduction”

New Nicotine Alliance calls for repeal of EU e-cigarette regulation and snus ban

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New Nicotine Alliance proposes that the forthcoming Great Repeal Act is used to repeal pointless, burdensome and restrictive EU regulation of e-cigarettes and to lift the illegal, unethical and anti-scientific ban on snus.  This may be a ‘quick win’ from Brexit at the point of the departure of the UK from the EU.  The government will need to show that there are at least some benefits.

The Great Repeal Act will not actually repeal that much of substance. It will mainly just convert the vast body of EU law that applies in the UK to domestic law. But there is scope for some crowd-pleasing repeals of especially poor regulation, of which the TPD provisions related to tobacco harm reduction are the most obvious candidate.

Here is the NNA letter to Secretary of State, Jeremy Hunt.  Continue reading “New Nicotine Alliance calls for repeal of EU e-cigarette regulation and snus ban”

A strong case to overturn the EU snus ban – 10 reasons why legal action should succeed this time

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Unscientific, unethical and unlawful EU snus ban

 

Good news confirmed today: Swedish Match, the main European snus manufacturer, will take legal action to overturn the European Union ban on snus -see Reuters 1 July 2016: Swedish Match to challenge EU snus ban in UK court. This ban is possibly the most absurd and harmful piece of legislation the European Union has ever concocted, and its demise is long overdue.

The EU snus ban was introduced in 1992 (directive 92/41/EEC) and reaffirmed in 2001 (2001/37/EC) and reaffirmed again in 2014 in the Tobacco Products Directive 2014/40/EU Article 17. The ban only exists because of posturing by self-indulgent and negligent politicians backed by prohibitionist harm-inducing NGOs.  It has no scientific, ethical or legal justification whatsoever (see Death by regulation: the EU ban on low-risk oral tobacco) and can only be causing harm to health by denying smokers elsewhere in Europe benign alternatives to smoking that work so well in Sweden.

In 2003, Swedish Match challenged the identical ban in the previous Tobacco Products Directive 2001/37/EC (Article 8) and failed. See Case C-210/03 before the ECJ. However, a great deal has changed since then and even in 2003/4 I think they were unlucky to face a politicised court and improper scientific assessments of risk pushed by anti-scientific prohibitionists. But why should a legal challenge succeed now when a challenge failed in 2003-4? There are at least ten reasons to believe it will succeed this time.  Continue reading “A strong case to overturn the EU snus ban – 10 reasons why legal action should succeed this time”

Thinking of a Brexit vote? Consider these questions

It’s a massive decision with thousands of implications not easily recognised or understood. I want people to make the right decision, which I think is remain. Though I know a lot about this I don’t want anyone to take my word for it. So I’ve drafted up some questions to help you explore and challenge your own views.
Continue reading “Thinking of a Brexit vote? Consider these questions”

10 provocations about Brexit

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I’m off on holiday before the EU referendum – but here’s my take on why to vote Remain in ten provocations. A longer, more analytical view here. Continue reading “10 provocations about Brexit”

Who cares about a few thousand dead? Defending EU limits on the strength of nicotine e-liquids

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Not that many dead – what’s all the fuss about…?

Updated 16 May 2016

Apparently, there are still people in public health trying to defend the EU Tobacco Products Directive as it applies to vaping! It’s a ludicrous measure, that protects the cigarette trade, has costs and risks that vastly outweigh the non-existent benefits. ASH (London) appears relaxed about the nicotine strength limit: New EU rules on nicotine strength not a problem for most vapers it declares this morning (16 May 2016).

ASH claims that because ‘only’ nine percent of current vapers use liquids over the limit set by the EU Tobacco Products Directive, concerns raised in Parliament (Lords debatePrime Minister’s Questions) are unjustified:

Concerns raised in Parliament [4] about the EU rules are not borne out by the ASH Smokefree GB Adult Survey. Only 9% of vapers report using e-liquid containing 19mg/ml or more of nicotine (the limit set by the EU Tobacco Products Directive is 20mg/ml).

Or maybe Parliament is right and ASH is wrong…? How might one respond to this defence of the indefensible?  Continue reading “Who cares about a few thousand dead? Defending EU limits on the strength of nicotine e-liquids”

UK government e-cigarette impact assessment exposes failed and unlawful EU policy

DOH!
New logo for the Department of Health?

The UK Department of Health has published an “Impact Assessment” to accompany its implementation of the Tobacco Products Directive (Tobacco and related product regulations, 2016).  As regular readers will know I think Article 20 dealing with e-cigarettes is useless and does little but protect the cigarette trade.  I can report that the new Impact Assessment supports that view – so here I provide a short review. Continue reading “UK government e-cigarette impact assessment exposes failed and unlawful EU policy”

Brexit: utopia, dystopia or PONCE?

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UK trade with EU (ONS data): interdependency will create massive pressure to preserve the status quo

Updated 29 May 2016

Okay, here are some thoughts on ‘Brexit’ (British exit from the European Union), which is the subject of a UK referendum to be held on 23 June 2016. I’ve added a discussion on implications for vaping and the TPD.

My view… there is a lot to dislike about the EU: it can be unaccountable, incompetent, over-reaching, arrogant, lawless, captured and dishonest. The more you have to do with it, as we saw recently with the EU Tobacco Products Directive, the more appalling it looks. We witnessed the unedifying spectacle of the amateurish drafting of incompetent but irreversible legislation that will affect millions with no apparent concern for science or evidence while blatantly disregarding even the modest procedural requirements of the EU treaties to consult, prepare impact assessments and minimise burdens. Is anyone accountable? If everyone is, no-one is.

So why am I in favour of the UK remaining in the EU?

Continue reading “Brexit: utopia, dystopia or PONCE?”

Escaping the EU directive on e-cigarettes

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I’ve written  and presented many times on the utter mess the EU Tobacco Products Directive (TPD 2014/40/EU) has made of regulating low-risk alternatives to smoking: notably Article 20 that regulates e-cigarettes and Article 17 that bans snus.

EU legislation is especially ill-suited to regulating new disruptive and controversial technologies that regulators don’t understand – see my discussion of regulating disruptive technology. Directives are produced by a kind of committee pinball game that reflect prejudices, esoteric beliefs and haggling of people with little knowledge of what they are dealing with and no accountability for the outcome or damage done.  But once agreed, they are really hard to reverse or amend, and they are a good reason to do only what is necessary at European level.

Here’re the escape routes I can think of. Continue reading “Escaping the EU directive on e-cigarettes”