Regulating disruptive technologies – three papers

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In 2013, Goldman Sachs declared e-cigarettes to be a disruptive technology: the search for creative destruction

Eight Disruptive Themes

(1) E-cigarettes: The potential to transform the tobacco industry. Imagine a product that is possibly >99% less harmful than cigarettes, delivers a similar use experience and offers a better economic bargain— this is the proposition of electronic cigarettes (e-cigs). We believe e-cigs have the potential to alter the status quo of the US tobacco market and accelerate the volume decline of traditional cigarettes.

But what does the academic literature tell us about regulating disruptive new technologies like e-cigarettes, heated tobacco products or novel nicotine products?  If you want to get beyond zealous proposals for outright bans, crude restrictions and gratuitous burdens you will need to bypass the health journals and consult scholarship in academic law journals.  Here are three paper that offer useful insights – none deal explicitly with tobacco or nicotine. Sadly, there is little sign that these insights have been grasped by FDA, the European Union or WHO.  Continue reading “Regulating disruptive technologies – three papers”

Lipstick on a pig: response to consultation on the Tobacco Products Directive


I responded to the Department of Health consultation on implementing the EU Tobacco Products Directive [documents / consultation]. The on-line survey system accessible from the consultation page is by far the easiest way to respond. Closes 3rd September 2015.

To be candid, I find this consultation quite patronising. In the manner of putting lipstick on a pig, they are not consulting on the Directive itself – that is irrevocably fixed (albeit subject to legal action that could strike it down), but on implementation detail.

The part of the directive itself that deals with e-cigarettes (Article 20) was never subject to consultation.

Unsurprisingly it amounts to little more than pointless bureaucratic harassment – see why here.  So this consultation deals only with options allowed within the fixed terms directive. I was thinking of not responding, but figured any opportunity to discourage the creation of an even bigger mess should be taken.  The big mistakes were made in October 2013 – this consultation is a consequence.

My response below – questions not answered are greyed out. PS. if you respond, please give your own thoughts, in your own words, politely and constructively.

What I really think is at at Q.24 and 25.

Responses to questions start here:

Continue reading “Lipstick on a pig: response to consultation on the Tobacco Products Directive”

Wales vaping ban: silver lining may be larger than cloud

A war on vaping is a war on the poor

There’s an interesting development in the UK today: the Welsh Government has announced that it will ban vaping in public places and work places where smoking is banned (for reference population of Wales is 3m, UK is 64m).  But that’s not the interesting development. Continue reading “Wales vaping ban: silver lining may be larger than cloud”

What is wrong with the Tobacco Products Directive for vapour products?

Provisions for vapour products were designed in a political process in haste, in secret, without consultation, with no impact assessment and in the face of opposing scientific advice – and it shows

The European Union directive governing e-cigarette regulation is a catalogue of poorly designed, disproportionate and discriminatory measures that will achieve nothing useful but do a great deal of harm. Let’s review the main issues: Continue reading “What is wrong with the Tobacco Products Directive for vapour products?”

Alarmist survey on teenage vaping misses the point – reaction

The BBC, GuardianTelegraph and others report on a new study, Associations between e-cigarette access and smoking and drinking behaviours in teenagers,  that “showed one in five had tried or bought e-cigarettes“.  The researchers put out a forthright press release and concluded e-cigarettes were the “alcopops of the nicotine world” and need tougher controls. Nice soundbite, but have the researchers, journal editors, peer reviewers and journalists really interpreted this survey correctly?

I think this study is being widely misunderstood or spun …It may actually may be showing something that is a good news.  Let’s examine four things that must be considered when assessing the implications of this survey – then some expert reaction and consumer reaction: Continue reading “Alarmist survey on teenage vaping misses the point – reaction”

Big Tobacco’s Little Helpers

Public health disinformation encourages regulation that protects the cigarette trade

This is a guest post by David Sweanor, Adjunct Professor of Law at University of Ottawa and lifelong public health campaigner,  Starts here…

Continue reading “Big Tobacco’s Little Helpers”

Comments on draft BSI standard for vaping products

Make your views known: if you aren’t at the table, you’re probably on the menu

I provided some comments on the draft British Standards PAS 54115, Manufacture, importation, testing, and labelling of vaping products (closing 30 Nov).  A PAS is an industry-led Publicly Available Standard, brokered but not imposed by the British Standards Institute, and designed to quickly set norms in an industry.  I’m broadly pretty positive about this, not least as it could give a basis for more rational regulation if the EU directive Article 20 is annulled in court, which it should be.  However, I think the current draft PAS leans towards costly overkill in some areas – we need to keep the likely risks in proportion and remember the damaging and distorting effects of subjecting these products to greater testing burdens than cigarettes.  There are many worthwhile proposals, but the excesses have been my focus in comments.

What I hope this does is open a conversation – that would be the one that was never had while the EU directive was being drafted.
Continue reading “Comments on draft BSI standard for vaping products”

Bullying traits and public health values compared

Banksy sums it up (via @therealbanksy)

I know some people find the attack on vapers and vaping by elements of the public health establishment stressful and anxiety-inducing. I’m one of them, and I’m not even a vaper or smoker, whose health and wellbeing may in part be determined by what these people say and do. I think it is so stressful because the interaction has many of the traits associated with bullying.  

Continue reading “Bullying traits and public health values compared”

Doctors, smoking and money

Puzzled male shrugging wearing lab coat
Doctors: incentivised by payments for activity

Updated 26/10. The new NHS Five Year view was published this week*.  There was much wailing about an £8 billion ‘black hole’ in the finances, and stirring exhortation about ‘Getting Serious on Prevention‘.  The Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, declared he “wants a smoke-free Britain”.

Not serious to the point of recognising that 700,000 ex-smokers are vapers, and that this massive prevention effect has happened without public spending and without the public health and medical establishments doing anything (other than trying to obstruct it).  If they were truly radical, the leadership of the NHS would recognise this consumer based strategy for its enormous potential and get to work on making it happen rather than sabotage it. Oddly, the doctors’ trade union, the BMA, has taken one of the most hostile lines on vaping.  Is that a mistake? Or could there be money involved? Continue reading “Doctors, smoking and money”

Review of the FCA COP-6 position on e-cigarettes

FCA position on ENDS
Not bad. But good enough?

On 7 October 2014, the Framework Convention Alliance, the largest alliance of NGOs that attend and lobby in the WHO FCTC meetings, published its COP-6 policy brief on ENDS (e-cigarettes).  Its policy briefing sets out a position that reflects a careful navigation through the middle ground between the pro- and anti- harm reduction factions in that alliance, while basically not saying too much that is wrong or likely to cause harm. It is a real achievement that they reached agreement at all, given how polarising this issue is within that community.  The paper is a positive contribution to the negotiations and important corrective to the stance taken by WHO. Some more thoughts: Continue reading “Review of the FCA COP-6 position on e-cigarettes”