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April 7, 2023
3 min to read

Consultation Could Decide the Future of Vaping in Europe

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Jim McDonald

A European Commission public consultation on the legislative framework for tobacco products is underway and will accept responses until May 16. The consultation—the second part of a process that began in 2022—launched in late February.

While the consultation seeks comments on all tobacco products, it is clearly aimed at introducing harsher regulation for e-cigarettes and other low-risk nicotine products. Comments solicited will be used to shape changes to the Tobacco Products Directive (TPD) and possibly the Tobacco Advertising Directive.

The consultation itself was deliberately written to elicit anti-vaping responses, according to sources quoted in a Vejpkollen story. But it is the only tool European vapers and other nicotine product users have available to prevent the adoption of prohibitionist vaping laws.

Without consumer input, the EC will veer toward prohibition

The last time the European Union updated the TPD, in 2014, vaping advocates engaged in a battle royale to prevent e-cigarettes from being regulated as medical devices. And, even though that fate was averted, legislators imposed a number of pointless vaping restrictions like tank and bottle size limits, and 20 mg/mL (2 percent) maximum nicotine strength.

Unless vapers and users of nicotine pouches, CBD and heated tobacco products make their voices heard now, they are likely to face even more unwelcome rules—including flavor and online sales bans, a minimum age increase, and a ban on internet advertising.

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Those are among the recommendations in the policy documents the commission will use to justify TPD changes. The SCHEER Report, the report on the application of the Tobacco Products Directive, and Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan all ignored consumer input and the opinions of scientists and policy experts who advocated for harm reduction in EU tobacco policy, and instead relied on cherry-picked science from hardline anti-nicotine sources.

Some of these policies have already been adopted by individual EU countries, including flavor bans and excessive taxes. If they become EU law, all member countries will be forced to implement them.

The commission is expected to adopt a final proposal for TPD revisions next year. But the direction the EC takes will be decided well before the final proposal is published, and public input must be considered.

How to participate in the consultation

European Tobacco Harm Reduction Advocates (ETHRA)—an umbrella group of consumer THR advocacy groups—has provided a step-by-step guide for EU citizens completing the consultation.

According to ETHRA, the current consultation is “one of the most important to date.” In order to have a serious impact on future EU tobacco policy, ETHRA says public responses must meet or exceed the 24,000 received for Part 1 of the consultation last year.

The good news is there’s still plenty of time. The consultation runs till May 16.

The bad news is, with just five weeks to go in the 12-week response period, only about a quarter of ETHRA’s goal has been achieved—5,882 responses. Of those, about half have come from just Germany and Italy. Some EU countries that have faced major internal fights over vaping and nicotine product policy have registered almost no participation in the consultation, including less than 25 each from Estonia, the Netherlands, Finland, Belgium and Poland.

The third part of the three-part TPD revision process will be stakeholder consultations, to be held by invitation immediately after the public consultation. ETHRA expects to participate, as will selected representatives of the vaping industry. But those meetings will almost certainly be weighted toward influential European public health and tobacco control agencies—none of which favor liberal vaping and nicotine product laws—and that makes a strong public response doubly important.

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Jim McDonald

Vaping since: 12 years

Favorite products:

Favorite flavors: RY4-style tobaccos, fruits

Expertise in: Political and legal challenges, tobacco control haters, moral panics

Jim McDonald

Smokers created vaping without help from the tobacco industry or anti-smoking crusaders, and I believe vapers have the right to continue innovating to help themselves. My goal is to provide clear, honest information about the challenges vaping faces from lawmakers, regulators, and brokers of disinformation. I’m a member of the CASAA board, but my opinions aren’t necessarily CASAA’s, and vice versa. You can find me on Twitter @whycherrywhy

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