Will the next European Parliament take a milder approach to tobacco alternatives?

2024-05-06 16:33:44 朱文娟

RIMYI | e-cigarette,e-cig,vape pcb and pcba Solution ProviderAround 370m Europeans will be called to the polls in June to elect the 720 members of the next European Parliament. The outcome – which is still unpredictable – could impact the future of alternatives and reshape the narrative around harm-reduction strategies, mainly focusing on vaping, heated tobacco products, nicotine pouches and other safer alternatives to smoking.

Depending on the composition of the European Parliament and other relevant bodies, there may be changes in priorities, alliances and policy approaches. Overall, discussions on novel nicotine products are likely to be multifaceted, reflecting a range of perspectives from public health advocates, industry stakeholders, policy-makers and the public.

Nevertheless, there is a chance a milder outlook on alternatives to traditional cigarettes will emerge, with right-wing/centrist groups such as the European People’s Party Group (EPP), European Conservatives and Reformists Group (ECR), and Identity and Democracy Group (ID) polling well. These groups are less likely to support strict regulation, which would – at the very least – maintain the status quo at a significant time for non-smoking nicotine products, as both the EU Tobacco Products Directive (TPD) and Tobacco Excise Directive (TED) will be revised. 

New regulations needed

Sergio Berlato (pictured), an Italian member of the European Parliament (MEP) within the ECR, is optimistic that the new parliamentary term is likely to take a more pragmatic approach than the previous one, with more members open to acknowledging a positive role for alternatives to smoking for harm reduction and the adoption of less limiting regulations on these products.

“New regulations specifically targeting novel nicotine products to facilitate consumers to access them are needed,” Berlato told ECigIntelligence. “Results cannot be achieved through prohibitions. It is essential to guarantee correct information to consumers – especially to young people – to avoid the abuse of tobacco. More investments in alternative products could help reduce the abuse of tobacco products and protect the right to health and the ecosystem, which are the objectives to be pursued.”

Concerns about youth initiation and the use of novel nicotine products may also feature prominently in discussions, particularly referring to measures to prevent under-age access and curb youth use – such as flavour bans and marketing restrictions. In this regard, Berlato said if the goal is avoiding the abuse of such products, everything that can lead to addiction must be regulated – including flavours. “This does not mean banning flavours, but it would be necessary to see them regulated somehow,” he said, emphasising the importance of adult smokers having access to less-harmful alternatives. 

Trade implications 

Discussions about novel nicotine products in the EU may also consider international trends and developments. This could include comparisons with regulations and policies in other countries, as well as discussions about trade implications.

In this regard, Berlato underlined the need for the same procedures and constraints to which European producers are subjected to also be imposed on those who export their products to Europe from other non-European countries, otherwise, unfair competition will occur.

“The need for these products is greater than production in Europe, which is why we must import them from other countries,” he added, “but it is necessary to review the regulations, and the consumption of products from Europe should be given priority.” 

Balancing public and private interests 

Commenting on how engaging with stakeholders – including public health organisations, industry representatives and consumers – in the development of policies related to alternative tobacco products, Berlato said that the European Commission must take into account everyone’s opinions and needs.

“Through consultation between the European Commission and stakeholders, a compromise should be reached between the interests of private individuals – which concerns profit – and the primary needs that the public body [the Commission] must ensure; that is, the protection of public health and the ecosystem,” he stressed.

Berlato added that the European Commission should also take into account the opinions expressed by the World Health Organization (WHO) – which has always been sceptical towards harm reduction, even when countries like Sweden are on the verge of becoming smoke-free using similar strategies. 

EU Commission’s ‘perplexing’ reluctance to embrace harm reduction

In this regard, commenting on findings from the public consultation on the EU TPD revealing a substantial consensus among citizens, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and scientific institutions on the effectiveness of harm-reduction products in assisting smokers to quit, Michael Landl, director of the World Vapers’ Alliance (WVA), said the EU Commission’s reluctance to embrace this approach “is not only perplexing but also detrimental to public health efforts”.

“The Commission needs to align its policies with the clear evidence and public opinion, rather than clinging to outdated and ineffective methods,” Landl said, emphasising the need to listen to consumers and the scientific community to revise its approach to better serve the health interests of its citizens.

However, while it is challenging to make precise predictions on the outcome of the upcoming elections, it is clear that novel nicotine products will remain a significant focus of regulatory attention in the EU. Measures like banning flavours and increasing taxation on harm-reducing nicotine products are up for discussion as key issues on which there is disagreement. As such, no outcome is likely to please everyone.

The global e-cigarette market is in an opaque regulatory environment that requires professionals to be on top of industry developments to make informed decisions and optimise their strategy.

ECigIntelligence provides organisations with leading market and regulatory data analysis to anticipate and understand market developments globally and the impact of regulatory changes to the business.

– Antonia Di Lorenzo ECigIntelligence staff

Photo: Eric Vidal, European Union 2023, EP