“Gold-plating” the law
Poland plans to implement the Tobacco Products Directive (TPD) more harshly than required by the European Union. The government will ban online and cross-border sales, effectively eliminating availability of vapor products in many parts of the country. Poland has a population of almost 39 million, making it the the sixth biggest country in the EU.
The TPD must be implemented by all member countries of the EU. However, the rules allow each country the latitude to transpose (insert into their own national laws) the regulations more strictly than required. That is, the Polish government is free to add further restrictions — which is exactly what they have done. The practice is sometimes called “gold-plating.”
Hundreds of businesses will be ruined
“Several hundred businesses selling only online will be just wiped out from the market,” wrote Miroslaw Dworniczak on the Nicotine Science and Policy website [since removed]. “Many people will lose their jobs. And most important, hundreds of thousands of Polish vapers, living in small cities and villages, will immediately lose access to e-cigarettes and e-liquid.”
Dworniczak is a chemist, freelance science journalist and lecturer at the Department of Chemistry, Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznan, Poland. He’s also the author of a Polish blog on e-cigarettes and e-liquid chemistry and safety.
Ignoring the evidence
According to Dworniczak, vaping advocates have been petitioning the Health Minister and other government officials all year, trying to engage in a discussion of the TPD and the Polish implementation of it. “Many e-mails were sent, accompanied by scientific papers on e-cigarettes, and there were also several phone calls and conversations,” writes Dworniczak. “There were numerous official petitions sent formally to the Prime Minister, Ms. Beata Szydło, and another sent to the Polish President. Alas nobody from the Ministry of Health would agree to meet representatives of the vaping community to discuss these most important issues and the campaigning failed to produce any changes in the proposed legislation.”
In March this year an important report was published by Professor Andrzej Sobczak, of the Silesian Medical University, who has been the head of the group studying e-cigarettes since 2011. The conclusion of his paper was simple: e-cigarettes are much less harmful for human health than smoking regular cigarettes. This report was also sent to the ministry. Following this we had the British Royal College of Physicians report in April, which was also forwarded to MPs in the Parliament and on the back of these, in May this year, vapers started to campaign for a parliamentary public hearing regarding this implementation. This met with no response from the authorities. In June there was the Third Global Forum on Nicotine in Warsaw and the organizers tried to invite government and parliamentary officials to discuss the most important issues. Once again there was no response.
The lower house of the Polish Parliament passed the legislation on July 8. After the Senate approves it, it will go to the president to be signed into law. Dworniczak expects the new rules to be in place by the middle of August.