A Non-Communicable Diseases report by the EU's Subcommittee on Public Health has officially recognized the effectivity of vaping as a smoking cessation tool.
The European Parliament has officially recognized the substantial role of vaping in smoking cessation during a full assembly, following the endorsement of the products by the EU’s Subcommittee on Public Health (SANT) on November 7th. This development is considered a significant milestone in the effort to combat smoking-related illnesses within the European Union (EU), by embracing tobacco harm reduction (THR).
Part of the Parliament’s broader initiative on non-communicable diseases, the report not only acknowledges vaping as an effective method for smoking cessation but is also expected to influence the direction of health policies throughout the EU. However, a point of contention remains concerning the SANT’s initial recommendation to restrict vaping in specific public areas.
Nevertheless, Director of the World Vapers’ Alliance (WVA) Michael Landl, views the recognition of vapes as a positive step forward, highlighting a notable shift in recognizing the positive impact of the products on public health. He calls on the European Commission (EC), who remains staunchly against THR strategies, to align with this perspective. He emphasized that this endorsement represents the collective decision of the Parliament, the direct representatives of EU citizens.
On discussing this development with Landl in an attempt to gauge its significance, he told Vaping Post that while the Non-Communicable Diseases (NCD) report is significant, one must bear in mind that it is not binding by law. “Firstly, it’s important to note that while the NCD report is an influential document, it is not legislation and, as such, does not have direct consequences for the EU’s legislation. This means that the report’s adoption doesn’t automatically translate into changes in the law. However, its implications should not be underestimated.”
The report is unlikely to change the EU’s position at COP10
In response to whether he thinks that renowned anti-THR MEPs will be influenced by the NCD report, Landl replied that it will make it harder for them to deny the potential role of vaping. “I believe that the adoption of the report can play a significant role, especially as we approach the negotiations about the Tobacco Products Directive (TPD) later this year. The report’s recognition of vaping as a potential smoking cessation tool makes it harder for Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) to deny the benefits that vaping can offer in the context of public health and smoking cessation.”
“In this sense, the report’s adoption can be seen as a very positive step, potentially influencing the tone and direction of the upcoming TPD discussions (at least within the European parliament),” he added. Sadly however, the WVA director does not believe that the EU’s position as made known during the WHO’s infamous Conference of the Parties (COP), can be swayed by the NCD report in any way.
Rescheduled for Februray 2024, COP10 will address regulations on nicotine products, potentially impacting vaping products, snus, nicotine pouches, and other alternatives to smoking. “Regarding the Conference of the Parties (COP) and its proceedings, I think that the NCD report is unlikely to have a substantial influence. The position of the EU is agreed upon in advance of the original COP dates, and given the established nature of these positions, it’s unlikely that the adoption of the NCD report will prompt significant changes in the short term.”
Snus remains vilified
Meanwhile, another prominent figure in the harm reduction debate within Europe, Bengt Wiberg, is leading the “EU for snus” initiative to challenge the EU’s “unscientific” snus policy. He rightly highlights that if more people adopted nicotine use as done in Sweden, many lives could be saved from premature death each year.
Like many of his peers, Wiberg points out that the EU’s stance on snus is rooted in ideology and politics rather than science, as EU politiciants refuse to acknowledge the fact that researchers liken nicotine to caffeine – addictive but not harmful. He argues that the reluctance to lift the snus ban in the EU is driven by prestige, as revoking the ban would require decision-makers to admit their error. To this effect, EU for snus strives to influence EU decision-makers, particularly with COP10 being held next month.