Month: December 2020

[EU] Tobacco taxation – excise duties for manufactured tobacco products

To whom it may concern,

Beating cancer in the EU remains one of our biggest priorities as a society and therefore, we need to approach this issue in a smart way using a science-based approach that enhances consumer choice.

Taxation is intended to push consumers away from particular products – in this case, cigarettes. What policymakers tend to overlook, though, is that demand for cigarettes is inelastic and taxes – along with other restrictions and bans – cannot substantially affect consumer behaviour. Consumers should be seen as individuals responsible for their wellbeing who make a voluntary informed decision to smoke. The EU should seek to preserve consumer choice and encouragement might be a more balanced way forward.

Moreover, high tobacco taxes drive illicit trade in tobacco products. According to European Union Anti Fraud Office (OLAF), cigarette smuggling and other illicit trade forms in tobacco products cause an estimated EUR 10 billion loss to the EU and national budgets every year. In the legal supply chain, manufacturers, suppliers, distributors, retailers and consumers are all affected by illicit trade. The black market of tobacco targets vulnerable groups in society, undermining strategies for the effort of harm reduction products.

To prevent these risks, the European Union should limit taxation, and do not increase taxation, on tobacco products. Tax increases incentivise consumers to purchase illegal products and make black market alternatives more attractive. Excessive regulation and taxation of tobacco products reduce access to and availability of them without driving down the demand.

The effectiveness of e-cigarettes as a smoking cessation tool is undeniable, keeping in mind that it targets smokers as opposed to non-smokers. Vaping is a life-saving tool, and it has been proven to be 95% less harmful than smoking. International health bodies, Public Health England, New Zealand Ministry of Health and Health Canada have also endorsed vaping for encouraging smokers to switch.

The new tobacco excise strategy should take these facts into consideration and develop a separate regulatory framework for vaping. The United States provides a valuable lesson of the damage that can be caused by excise taxes on e-cigarettes. US researchers found that “a proposed national e-cigarette tax of $1.65 per millilitre of vaping liquid would raise the proportion of adults who smoke cigarettes daily by approximately 1 percentage point, translating to 2.5 million extra adult daily smokers compared to the counterfactual of not having the tax.” We shouldn’t forget that our goal is to beat cancer in the EU, and in order to do that, we needn’t be blind to foreign experience and evidence at hand.

Most importantly, in order to reduce cancer rates, it is vital to ensure that vaping is not only accessible price-wise, but also that smokers are aware of the possibility to switch to a safer alternative that can reduce various health-associated risks. The EU has to encourage the marketing and branding of safe and legal vaping products. Consumer information is necessary in order to help beat cancer in the EU through vaping.

Given the aforementioned arguments, we strongly recommend abstaining from further increases in tobacco excise taxes in order not to incentivise the black market. We also call on the Commission to follow science and be mindful of the fact that vaping – as an effective smoking cessation tool – should be treated differently than conventional smoking. Tighter restrictions and higher taxes will not help us beat cancer in the EU, but putting together a science-based and consumer-friendly framework in regard to smoking and vaping will.

Kind regards,

Maria Chaplia
European Affairs Associate
Consumer Choice Center

Originally published here.

La publicité ciblée doit pouvoir continuer à exister

Lorsque nous entendons des cri tiques à propos des réseaux so ciaux, l’une des principales préoccupations est la publicité ci blée. On nous explique que cette pu blicité exploite les consommateurs et les bombardent de publicités en ligne. Cependant, il faut reconnaître que les outils technologiques nous donnent la possibilité de contrôler nos publicités et que le ciblage nous expose moins à des publicités qui ne nous intéressent pas.

Chaque jour, les publicités ciblées sont utilisées par des petits acteurs comme un salon de coiffure à la recherche de nouveaux clients, un groupe environnemental qui demande des signatures sur une pétition, ou un candi
dat politique qui cherche à se faire connaître.

Tous ces éléments sont importants et même vitaux pour nos sociétés civiles en Europe. Ces groupes paient pour attirer notre attention sur les réseaux sociaux parce qu’ils accomplissent quelque chose d’essentiel : générer des affaires, défendre des causes sociales ou gagner des élections. Cette démarche est facilitée par les réseaux sociaux sur lesquels nous affichons et
partageons des informations.

Comme les médias sociaux sont généralement gratuits pour les utilisateurs, le fait d’accepter cette publicité permet aux plateformes de se développer et de s’étendre pour continuer à offrir de la valeur aux utilisateurs. Ceci est un équilibre que la plupart d’entre nous comprennent. Certains sont légèrement ennuyés, mais la plupart préfèrent une
publicité qui répond à leurs intérêts.

Malheureusement, cette situation a donné des arguments à des militants anti-publicité et aux hommes politiques qui veulent l’interdire pour limiter la capacité à diffuser des informations sur les médias sociaux. En octobre, les députés européens ont voté à une écrasante majorité en faveur d’une restriction sévère et, à terme, d’une suppression progressive des publicités ciblées. La proposition était un amende ment au rapport annuel sur la concurrence, visant à remanier la loi sur les services numériques. Elle reste non contraignante tant que la Commission euro péenne n’aura pas publié de règlement.

Sur Twitter, l’eurodéputé néerlandais Paul Tang a qualifié le vote de “victoire” contre les grandes entreprises technologiques, ajoutant que “nous voyons que les grandes entreprises technologiques continuent à étendre leur pouvoir de marché en considérant les données personnelles comme une marchandise. En plus d’interférer avec notre vie privée, un tel modèle de revenus est malsain et dégoûtant pour l’internet”.

Les politiciens de Bruxelles se trompent. Ces remèdes politiques finiraient par nuire aux consommateurs et aux petites entreprises, et par réduire à néant le secteur des technologies innovantes qui apporte de la valeur aux utilisateurs dans toute l’Europe. Les réseaux sociaux sont devenues populaires parce qu’elles per mettent aux utilisateurs de s’exprimer, et ils sont deve nus rentables parce qu’ils permettent aux petites entre prises et aux organisations sans but lucratif de trouver des clients, volontaires, ou des donateurs. Toute la société y gagne !

Si la publicité ciblée est démantelée, comme certains l’espèrent, cela limitera fortement les possibilités qu’ont les entrepreneurs et les groupes sociaux de trouver des partisans et des clients. Cela peut sembler bon en théorie, mais en pratique, cela signifie qu’il faut mettre fin à de nombreuses initiatives et entreprises, du recru tement pour les groupes environnementaux à la vente en ligne pourles restaurants pendant ces périodes de confinement, et bien plus encore.

Nous devons accepter le fait que les médias sociaux sont devenus le nouveau marché où nous recherchons des informations. Si nous légiférons et interdisons des méthodes spécifiques de partage d’informations sur les produits et services en ligne, cela réduit le choix des consommateurs et étouffe des industries entières. Cela nuit à tout le monde. Plus que nuisible, elle repose également sur la fausse hypothèse selon laquelle les adultes ne sont pas assez intelligents pour comprendre ou interpréter la publicité. C’est à la fois paternaliste et erroné.

Bien sûr, les publicités sont ennuyeuses pour ceux qui n’en veulent pas. Et, heureusement, la même technologie qui a créé la micro-publicité ciblée a également engendré des plugins de navigation qui permettent de bloquer les publicités. Il existe éga lement des réseaux privés virtuels et des modes de navigation privés qui sont faciles à utiliser pour ceux qui les veulent. Grâce à la technologie, tout ce que nous faisons en ligne est devenu plus efficace, plus performant et moins coûteux. Elle a permis à des organisations à but non lucratif de se faire entendre, à des millions d’entrepreneurs de s’expri mer et aux utilisateurs du monde entier de bénéfi cier d’une valeur inestimable.

En tant que défenseurs d’un internet libre et ouvert, nous devons continuer à soutenir l’innovation et veil ler à ce qu’elle soit protégée contre ceux qui souhaitent en limiter le potentiel. L’Union européenne doit trou ver des moyens d’encourager, plutôt que d’étouffer, l’innovation que chaque citoyen du continent mérite.

Vaping: The next best alternative

Israr Hasan for DOT : [2] Smoking is a common habit here in Bangladesh, affecting everyone from teenagers to senior citizens. In order to reduce the harm caused by cigarettes, many young people are shifting to e-cigarettes or vapes, credited as one of the most effective quit smoking tools we’ve seen. E-cigarettes are available everywhere in Bangladesh from small street corner shops to e-commerce sites as they grow in high demand.

[3] That said, the Bangladesh government has recently stated that it is working to stop the production and consumption of e-cigarettes in the country. This proposal would be disastrous for adult consumers who want a less risky alternative. Bangladesh is thus set to follow India’s example, which last year banned e-cigarettes in response to what they had called an “epidemic”. This coincides with the goal of making the country tobacco-free by 2040, which to the outside eye appears to be more of an emergency than a grand vision.

[4] Once again, here we see the government meddling in a way that is harmful to consumers. Vaping is seen as the best alternative because it generally acts as a legitimate quitting tool and is significantly less harmful than conventional cigarettes to consumers.

[5] Vapes do not require fire that needs to be lit and hence, no combustion takes place. Consequently, there is no smoke, tar, carbon monoxide, and no risk of passive smoking is associated with it making it environmentally friendly, as third parties are not affected.

[6] In Bangladesh, there seems to be a severe lack of information on vaping, but plenty of misinformation. As in many cases, it is better to leave consumers to choose their own method of quitting tobacco rather than having a top-down decision.

[7] Allowing the use of vapes as a less harmful alternative can help large numbers of smokers quit. Vaping can help Bangladesh achieve its vision of becoming tobacco-free by 2040, but there should be an organic framework where market forces do the work rather than constant governmental instructions.

Israr Hasan is a policy fellow at the Consumer Choice Center

Originally published here.

Feds taking the easy way out

In early October Alberta Premier Jason Kenney announced the province would become a leader in recycling plastics, and that Alberta’s plastics strategy would be a core component for job creation moving forward. For the casual observer of politics, this looks like an exciting development. Who doesn’t like the prospect of better managing plastic waste, while also creating jobs? That seems like a win-win.

Unfortunately, just one day after Kenney’s announcement, the federal government declared it will designate plastic as a Schedule 1 toxic substance under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act (CEPA) and will ban the use of single-use plastic items such as plastic cutlery, straws, stir sticks, grocery bags, six-pack rings and take-out containers. As an Ontarian, the prospect of “western alienation” has never resonated with me, but Trudeau’s immediate plastics announcement on the heels of Alberta’s did get me thinking.

Right off the bat, the federal government’s redesignation and ban seemed curious. Of course, we all know that plastic products are not toxic. Whether it’s the PPE we are wearing to keep us safe during the pandemic, or the containers our take-out orders come in, it’s clear that plastics are not a toxin like asbestos and lead, which are also listed under Schedule 1 of CEPA.
In fact, the move to regulate plastics via CEPA comes across as a lazy way to regulate as opposed to legislate. Rather than have a serious discussion about waste management, the federal government has opted for redesignating all plastic, meaning that any plastic product could be added to the ban list without debate or an impact assessment.

Beyond the strange reasoning for using CEPA, Trudeau’s move also looks to be a serious encroachment on provincial authority and autonomy. No matter how we chalk it up, our local communities, and our respective provinces, are the levels of government responsible for collecting and managing waste. The federal government doesn’t send someone to pick up your recycling bin every week. Now, one could make the argument that the provinces have done such a poor job at waste management that the federal government needed to step in, but is that true?

Looking to Alberta, it’s clear that the province takes plastic waste seriously. Take, for example, the issue of plastic grain feed bags. These grain bags represent half of all the plastic waste generated by Alberta farms. In Bagshaw, a recycling plant takes these old bags, 14,000 of them per year, and repurposes them into resin pellets. These resin pellets are then sold both at home and abroad and turned into entirely new plastic products. This process dramatically increases the lifecycle of grain bags, and ensures that they don’t end up as mismanaged plastic.

But grain bags aren’t the only example. Sturgeon County, in a partnership with NAIT, will have residents driving on streets paved with recycled plastic within the year. The program takes single-use plastic items, like the ones on Trudeau’s ban list, alters their chemical bonds and binds them with bitumen. The end result is asphalt made with recycled plastic that won’t leach into the soil or waterways. Giving plastic waste a second life in this way creates jobs and fosters innovation, but more importantly, it ensures that plastics remain in the economy rather than ending up in the environment.

Rather than allowing provinces to manage and innovators to innovate, the federal government has taken the lazy route of outright banning certain products. The use of CEPA makes that ban even more problematic, as it creates real uncertainty on what could be added to the list next. Alberta has shown itself to be a leader in recycling plastic, and could continue to be so, if Ottawa allows it.

Originally published here.

Europe’s opposition to gene editing, pesticides means higher food prices for world’s poorest people

featured image blog

By 2070 the world will be populated by approximately 10.5 billion people. This means that we will need to be able to feed 3 billion additional humans every year. Fortunately, technological advances in agriculture and technology have helped us provide food for an extra 5.5 billion people in the last century compared to the 2 billion humans that populated the earth in 1920. According to the World Food Summit, since 1992, the number of hungry people in lower-middle-income countries has fallen by over 200 million, from 991 million to 790.7 million.

Stanford University estimated that if we would still use the farming technology of 1960, we would need additional farm land of Russia’s size, the world’s largest country, to earn the same yields as current technology. This is a huge success but also leaves us to the task of improving the situation of the remaining children and adults facing hunger as a daily challenge.

Unfortunately, the current political narrative in one of the world’s wealthiest regions seems to ignore the challenges ahead of us and wants us to turn to less efficient farming. The European Union’s Farm to Fork (F2F) strategy sets out to create a more sustainable food system by the end of this decade. However, looking at the currently proposed ideas, it is worrisome that this new policy framework will achieve the opposite of sustainable farming and lead not just Europe but the entire world in a potential food crisis with massive geopolitical ramifications.

The EU plans to increase the share of organic farming as a total of agricultural production from currently 7.5% to 25%. Additionally, they plan a reduction of 50% in pesticides. At the same time, the F2F strategy does not embrace new technologies that allow farmers to achieve the same yields they are able to produce using the current level of pesticides.

For several reasons, including its low yields and the consequent need to bring more land into agricultural production, organic farming is particularly detrimental to meeting the world’s food demand.

What does this mean for feeding 10.5 billion people in 2070?

world population

More organic farming in Europe means lower yields of EU food production and higher prices for consumers. The shortage in Europe will be likely compensated by additional food imports from other parts of the world. This will lead to a global increase in food prices. For affluent regions of the world such as Europe, this will be rather a nuisance for consumers. This will have very negative consequences for people already living at the edge of existence and facing hunger.

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) estimated that farmers globally would lose 30%-40% of their crops due to pests and diseases if they don’t have crop protection tools such as insecticides or herbicides on hand. Up to 28% of all liver cancers worldwide can be attributed to aflatoxins, a mycotoxin type. Without allowing farmers to apply fungicides that reduce human exposure to these toxins, we keep risking millions of lives.

food production

In the last 100 years, pesticides have been proven to be a necessary evil in achieving higher and more predictable crop yields. In the past 60 years, we have seen a reduction of 40% in pesticide use per acre, and many less safe substances have been phased out. The emergence of genetically modified crops and the latest breakthroughs in gene editing allows a further reduction of spraying chemicals on the fields.

About 20% of the world population lives in South Asia. Due to India’s caste system farmers of the lowest castes live and farm on land that is more likely to experience regular floodings, with detrimental results for their rice harvest. Gene-edited crops allow the rice to submerge underwater for up to two weeks and still provide high yields. Such technologies are a clear game-changer for the poor and hungry and should be embraced. There’s no humanitarian case against them but a strong one for them.

gene editing game changer

Unfortunately, many critics of pesticides also oppose the use of gene editing. This leads to a dilemma that ultimately brings us to less food produced while global food demand will keep growing. One does not need to be an economist to understand that this will result in higher food prices.

We all have seen the dramatic refugee crisis in 2015 including all the terrible suffering and drowning of children and women in the Mediterranean. While the EU’s policies did not trigger this crisis, our future agricultural policies might cause widespread famines in parts of Africa and Asia. They might start a migration wave we haven’t seen since the migration period in the 5th and 6th centuries. History unfortunately shows that such massive uncontrolled migration streams usually also come with war and unrest.

The ‘western’ idea of making farming more organic will lead to a global food price inflation and hurt those that already struggle. We indeed all share one planet and therefore need to have sensible food policies that acknowledge hunger still being a problem 10% of the world population faces daily. No one, no matter if one is a proponent of mass migration or not, should desire a massive influx of starving people. Several adjustments to the EU’s future policies are needed in order to mitigate many negative drivers of poverty and hunger.

The EU’s Farm to Fork strategy needs to take this into account and not jeopardize our ability to feed an ever-growing population.

Fred Roeder is a consumer advocate and health economist from Germany and has worked in healthcare reform in North America, Europe, and several former Soviet Republics. Since 2012 he has served as an associated researcher at the Montreal Economic Institute. Fred can be found on Twitter @FredCyrusRoeder

Originally published here.

Which aspects of China’s basic dictatorship does Trudeau admire most?

In this week’s episode of The Western Voice the State Broadcaster gets first mention as it has been recently exposed that CBC CEO Catherine Tait has been jet setting between her $5.4 million Brooklyn New York home and Ottawa while normal Canadians remain in a miserable pandemic lockdown.

Morgan muses on Trudeau’s obsession with pandering to China makes sense when it is considered that Justin Trudeau had expressed his admiration for China’s “basic dictatorship” in how it aids them getting things done.

A number of things that China has done lately: hold Canadians hostage, arrest journalists and round up members of religious minorities. Admirable indeed.

The broken carbon tax promise will cost Canadians dearly at all levels. An example from just one Saskatchewan farming irrigation collective demonstrates how the proposed 467 percent increase in the carbon tax will likely drive many farmers right out of the industry while Canadian consumers will see increases in basic food costs.

Morgan interviews North American Affairs Manager of the Consumer Choice Center, David Clement on his recent article on Canada’s supply management system and an international trade initiative called “CANZUK”.

Originally published here

ABBIAMO IL VACCINO: GRAZIE DIRITTI DI PROPRIETÀ INTELLETTUALE!

vaccino

L’attuale quadro normativo per tutelare i diritti di proprietà nell’Unione Europea ha garantito la produzione rapida di un vaccino per la Covid-19. La nuova strategia per i farmaci della Commissione UE rischia però di penalizzare un sistema funzionante e limitare l’innovazione.

Il rapido sviluppo di vaccini altamente efficaci contro la Covid-19 è un grande successo per l’umanità. Il Regno Unito è stato il primo paese al mondo ad approvare e somministrare una delle versioni del vaccino, e si spera che presto le agenzie farmaceutiche europee e statunitensi seguiranno l’esempio del Regno Unito.

PERCHÉ È IMPORTANTE

Grazie al solido quadro normativo che tutela la proprietà intellettuale (IP) dell’Unione Europea (UE), siamo stati in grado di avere il primo vaccino per la Covid-19 efficace sviluppato nell’UE (in Germania) da una società europea sostenuta da venture capitalist europei. Il lavoro di ricerca e sviluppo portato avanti da molte aziende farmaceutiche e biotecnologiche innovative ha dimostrato quanto sia importante per l’umanità rispondere rapidamente alle nuove sfide.

Aziende come BioNTech, Moderna e AstraZeneca hanno risposto rapidamente, sviluppando nuovi e innovativi vaccini che, molto probabilmente, renderanno il 2021 migliore rispetto quest’ultimo anno. La prossima pandemia potrebbe essere dietro l’angolo. Considerando quanti esseri umani hanno sofferto e perso la vita e l’immenso tributo economico che grava sugli europei, dobbiamo fare tutto il possibile per promuovere e non soffocare l’innovazione in Europa.

LA STRATEGIA FARMACEUTICA DELL’UE

La nostra resilienza può essere aumentata solo abbracciando l’innovazione (il permesso di usare l’editing genico per i vaccini è un buon esempio) e garantendo agli investitori, come i venture capitalist e le aziende, incentivi e remunerazioni per gli investimenti. I diritti di proprietà intellettuale sono un fattore essenziale. La nuova strategia farmaceutica della Commissione riconosce i diritti di proprietà intellettuale come una salvaguardia per l’innovazione, ma parla anche in modo aggressivo di centralizzare le decisioni sui prezzi e sui rimborsi lontano dagli Stati membri e verso un approccio europeo unificato. Questa potrebbe non essere una buona notizia per la nostra capacità di resistenza di fronte a future crisi sanitarie.

NON POSSIAMO TORNARE INDIETRO

La pandemia ha peggiorato le finanze pubbliche e individuali con il rischio di ridurre l’accessibilità dei pazienti a molti farmaci in tutte le aree europee. Per impedire che ciò accada e mantenere elevati incentivi all’innovazione dobbiamo concentrarci sulla creazione di maggiore prosperità e migliorare le prospettive di crescita economica. Fattori critici per migliorare anche i sistemi sanitari e l’accesso alle cure e alle terapie avanzate. Una forte retorica volta a erodere i diritti brevettuali è una pericolosa sciabola che potrebbe ridurre la nostra capacità di innovare in futuro e trovare cure per molte malattie conosciute che non possiamo ancora curare.

UN VACCINO CONTRO LA BUROCRAZIA

Dobbiamo riconoscere che ci sono disparità nei livelli di ricchezza tra gli Stati membri dell’UE, e non possiamo avere un approccio unico per tutti. L’uniformazione dei prezzi dei farmaci in tutta l’UE potrebbe ritardarne l’introduzione con conseguenze gravi sul piano dell’accessibilità e della disponibilità. Invece di dichiarazioni forti per negoziare la riduzione dei prezzi dei farmaci, la Commissione dovrebbe abbracciare l’innovazione e lavorare anche sulla reciprocità delle approvazioni dei farmaci in tutta l’area OCSE. Perché i cittadini dell’UE dovrebbero aspettare molto più tempo che l’EMA approvi i vaccini quando questi si sono già dimostrati sicuri e disponibili per i residenti nel Regno Unito?

La Commissione UE dovrebbe mantenere gli attuali eccellenti standard di proprietà intellettuale e non intervenire nelle regole nazionali per le decisioni sui prezzi e sui rimborsi. Inoltre, è fondamentale che i governi si astengano dal proclamare i vincitori nella selezione dei nuovi trattamenti così come dei vaccini, mantenendo il principio di neutralità tecnologica. Il governo tedesco, ad esempio, è stato rapido a investire in un produttore di vaccini. Tuttavia, nonostante una massiccia iniezione di denaro dei contribuenti, un’altra azienda tedesca ha vinto la corsa per essere la prima ad avere un vaccino efficace. L’Europa è la patria della metà delle prime dieci aziende farmaceutiche del mondo. Non dovremmo mettere a repentaglio questa posizione, ma puntare a crearne altre, favorire l’innovazione e la libera concorrenza nell’Unione Europea.

Originally published here

U.S. Regulators Struggle With Flavored E-liquid Rules

The vapor industry continues to face several regulatory challenges. One of the most challenging of those is the seemingly never-ending battle against flavor bans for e-liquids. As most any vaper will tell you, flavors are instrumental in keeping former smokers from returning to combustible cigarettes. However, flavors are also what many industry regulators and anti-vapor advocates say lure youth to try vaping.

During Vape Live, a three-day virtual trade show and seminar hosted by Ireland-based Vapouround magazine, flavors and flavor bans in the United States, the world’s largest vapor market, were trending topics. Carlo Infurna Wangüemert, a vapor market analyst with ECigIntelligence, a regulatory research resource for the e-cigarette and tobacco alternatives industry, discussed recent market trends and the factors that are influencing the U.S. vapor market.

Wangüemert said that several factors are affecting the U.S. market: the e-cigarette or vaping use-associated lung injury (EVALI) scare, the Covid-19 pandemic and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) premarket tobacco product applications (PMTAs). He said that Covid-19 didn’t impact market growth as much as it impacted consumer behavior.

“We’ve seen a reduction of purchasing occasions and an increase of basket sizes [during the Covid-19 crisis],” he said. “We’ve also observed consumers buying a lot before the crisis in order to have enough stock in case of lockdowns, and it might also have affected the supply side as many independent shops had to close or have suffered an important drop of sales.”

Concerning supplies, Wangüemert sees the PMTAs drastically reducing the amount of variety on the market as many brands will try to keep their offerings as simple as possible. Before the FDA’s ban on prefilled flavored vape pods, those products represented half of the U.S. vapor market. Now, there is a rise in disposable e-cigarettes and refillable pod systems, according to Wangüemert. He said that this has led to several innovations in flavor output, such as better coils in open pod systems.

“Basically, hardware manufacturers are trying to develop new features and improving the functionality of their devices to make them small but complex enough to cover all vapers’ needs,” said Wangüemert, citing innovations that allow vapers to change temperature or change from mouth-to-lung to direct-to-lung with just one button as examples.

Refillable pod systems are the fastest-growing trend in the vapor industry, according to ECigIntelligence data. This is because they offer a larger selection of flavored e-liquids. Prefilled pods, however, are dropping because the only available flavors, tobacco and menthol, generate less complexity.

“Prefilled pods … show fairly well how regulation can have an impact on the market,” he said. “This ban is fully enforced online as only those two flavors are offered currently. We’ve observed an ongoing drop in the complexity of their flavors. Tobacco is [now] probably the most important flavor in prefilled pods.”

The U.S. market has also seen a surge in nicotine strengths, brought on mostly by the growing popularity of nicotine salts. Wangüemert said that nicotine salt-based e-liquids have been continually gaining ground during the last three years to the detriment of freebase liquids. “However, it is also interesting to point out that the average nicotine strength of nicotine salts is slowly going down,” he said.

Fruit flavors are also steadily rising in the U.S. market, according to Wangüemert. He said that fruit e-liquids, dessert and candy flavors all consume the Top 5 positions in flavors for e-liquid sales in 2020. “For the fruit category, which is mainly tropical fruits, mainly mango, are the ones helping the most in the growth of that category,” he said, adding that beverage flavors are also growing quickly, with lemonades experiencing a substantial amount of growth. “This might also be linked to the popularity of fruits, as lemonades are likely to contain them,” he explained.

Looking at tobacco and menthol flavors, Wangüemert explained that e-liquids containing tobacco generally have tobacco as the main flavor. However, menthol is much more popular as a complement to other flavors, such as fruit.

“Only 13 percent of the products that contain menthol have menthol as the main flavor. But [for] the other 87 percent, menthol is a complement or a cooling agent, being particularly popular in the fruit category,” he said. “Of course, these 87 percent of e-liquids that contain menthol that do not have it as the main flavor are more subject to potential bans than menthol-only flavors, which have been already excluded. However, our 2019 vape shop survey points out that menthol and tobacco represent just a small percentage of vape store revenues, meaning that flavor bans at the state level or even the consequences of the PMTA might strongly reduce their income and the vaping market in general as the offerings and variety of e-liquids were strongly reduced.”

Also speaking during Vape Live, Yael Ossowski, deputy director for the Consumer Choice Center (CCC), a consumer advocacy group, said that flavor bans in many U.S. states have had a major impact on the growth of the vapor market. States with strict flavor bans have seen major declines, with many vapers in those states returning to combustible products.

This prompted his organization to rank states by vaping regulations and the impact those regulations had on the vapor market. The group looked at how all 50 states confronted flavor restrictions, taxes and whether the state allowed for online sales. The CCC gave each state a number of points depending upon how much consumers were subject to the criteria. States that scored between 0–10 points received an F, 11–20 points received a C and 21–30 points received an A.

The states best suited for vaping were colored green on the corresponding chart while the worst states were colored red and middle-ground states were colored yellow. “For green states, we’ve got South Carolina, Georgia; we’ve got Iowa, Virginia, Florida, Texas and Oregon. You’ll notice, obviously, the red states, the places where we’re dealing with partial flavor bans, high taxes, shipping restrictions, there’s six of them.

Places like California, New York. You have New Jersey, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Illinois,” said Ossowski.  “Now we have our states in yellow. These are places that had a flavor ban in the past, and perhaps they’ve gotten rid of it, or it has not yet come into force. You have some taxation. It’s probably a bit more moderate than definitely those red states. And it has fewer shipping restrictions. People are able to order their vaping products online.”

One of the worst states, New York, has a tax rate of 20 percent of the retail price. Online sales are banned and all flavored products, except tobacco and menthol, are banned. These states, with low rankings, are also prone to other negatives for the vapor market, such as a growing black market, according to Ossowski.

California also has a statewide ban that is supposed to go into effect on Jan. 1, 2020. California also has several cities, such as San Francisco, that have banned vapor products entirely. It should be noted that, in California, flavor bans typically are only focused on nicotine vapor products, not marijuana vapor products. This is especially puzzling since the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has stated that the EVALI lung disease scare was caused by black market marijuana vapor products, not nicotine products.

“There is a lot of work that has been done by some very enterprising young journalists that kind of details everything with the black market when it comes to flavored vaping products. And that’s only just now burgeoning up in New York,” Ossowski explained. “There could be a lot more on this. We’re going to see. There’s not the biggest mainstream coverage on this.”

One of the main reasons that the CCC compiled the data and ranked the states is that the consumer group doesn’t want other states to follow behind states like California and Illinois by banning or restricting flavored vapor products. Ossowski said that these bans are detrimental to public health.

“It’s very dangerous. And in a way, by making it more expensive and pushing people often to the illegal market, not only are you seeing your price go higher, you’re also making it more difficult for people to acquire the products that they have transitioned away from tobacco to use. And we thought we’d actually be saving their lives and improving their lives. But what we see more often than not is that legislators make it harder,” he said. “They make it more difficult, and they actually put way more cumbersome barriers in the way so that you and I cannot access those products. We really do need to concentrate on laws, on policies, on studies, on figuring out who are the legislative champions that we can turn to in state legislatures or in the federal bureaucracy to be able to ensure that we have better laws that will enable harm reduction, that will enable us to continue to have vaping products for sale.”

Originally published here.

Let’s be realistic about new digital regulations

Today, the European Commission will present a regulatory framework that will determine the future of the European digital economy for the years to come.

Both the Digital Services Act (DSA) and Digital Markets Act aim to prevent and punish anti-competitive behaviours across digital platforms, in particular, those with at least 45 million users. Although that is indeed a historic moment for EU digital policy, it is expected that the very nature of these new regulations will be punitive and its unintended consequences might curb innovation instead of enhancing it.

The European Commission’s goal to keep big tech giants at bay has become obvious long ago when antitrust investigations into Facebook and Amazon started to build up. The witchhunt after anti-competitive actions has been the result of the European Union’s lack of knowledge about these new platforms and how their supply chains operate.

Digital Markets Act will attempt to solve this problem through a series of ex-ante restrictions that will tell big platforms how to behave and by introducing a new competition tool.

Several factors need to be considered in order for these developments to be fair and less damaging than it seems at first glance. First, ex ante regulations should be limited to large online platforms that qualify as gatekeepers and shouldn’t discriminate between them. However, keeping in mind, that the world of technology is constantly evolving and the economy as such is going to change, it is crucial that ex-ante regulations are concise and straightforward, and flexible.

A smart approach would be to strike a balance between the need to safeguard competition and remaining liberal enough to not block innovation. A code of conduct that would lay out specific blacklisted practices without making the costs of compliance excessively high for gatekeepers and preserving consumer choice might be as close as we can ever get to a compromise.

The European Union’s digital lag is well-known, and if we put even more brakes on our digital economy, we might find ourselves in the back of the queue for economic wellbeing. The key narrative of the EU digital reform shouldn’t be “let’s punish the big tech for its success” but rather “let’s create the favourable conditions for smaller enterprises”. Granting the Commission large-scale investigation powers would be an extremely dangerous move that will likely only increase the number of costly antitrust proceedings without boosting innovation.

Contrary to widely spread belief, lock-ins are all too often a conscious choice made by consumers in the absence of a viable alternative. Therefore, we should make it easier for small business to enter and for the existing ones to operate on equal terms with the more successful ones. We need a digital single market that can meet the needs of
European consumers without any external interference.

Although transparency is equally important, its pursuits shouldn’t lead us beyond the pale and turn the Commission into an honesty tribunal. The very fact that digital platforms bring value to Europeans is a clear indication that they do something right,and that should be enough for the Commission to form its judgment. Unmatched demand for digital services, including those provided by the big tech, speaks for itself.

The best way to approach today’s presentation of the new digital framework is to be realistic about its unintended consequences. Our goal should be innovation, not punishment.

Originally published here.

Illicit trade in pesticides is booming: why?

If the legal market cannot ensure farmers are able to buy pesticides to protect their crops from various diseases, then the black market fills the gap.

Pesticides are some of the most regulated products in the world. At the same time, if illegal pesticide producers were a single company they would be the 4th largest company in value in the world. Overregulating pesticides doesn’t decrease demand for them. In 2018, the European Union Intellectual Property Office stated that €1.3 billion are lost every year in Europe due to fake pesticides. This translates to €299 million and 500 jobs lost per year in Germany, €240 million and 500 jobs each year lost in France, and €185 million and 270 jobs lost annually in Italy.

Over the period 2011-2018, the sales of pesticides remained stable at around 360 million kilograms per year in the EU. In France, for example, despite the government’s ambition to drive down the use of pesticides, demand for pesticides have risen considerably in the past years. In Poland, the sale of pesticides in Poland in 2016 increased by 12.3 per cent compared to 2011. What this tells us is that as long as that overregulating pesticides only boosts illicit trade.

A quick look at the role of pesticides in farming explains why demand for them persists. Pesticides are instrumental in helping farmers prevent and/or manage pests such as weeds, insects, and plant pathogens. Substantial increases in yields recorded over the past 80 years can be mainly attributed to the use of pesticides. Without pesticides, crop losses would be between 50-80 per cent. Between 1950 and today, the world’s population grew between 1% and 2% each year, and to ensure it can be fed, we have to utilise natural resources in a smart way, and that is what pesticides allow us to do.

However, since the health of consumers is of paramount importance, pesticides need to undergo the necessary rigorous safety assessments by food safety authorities. The main danger associated with counterfeit pesticides – now estimated to represent 14% of the European crop protection – is that they go unchecked thereby endangering the lives of European consumers. Untested products can also lead to considerable harvest lost, resulting in less food security for European consumers.

When it comes to illicit trade in any product, not just pesticides, increasing the customs control and penalty for counterfeiting activities seems like a straightforward solution. Neither of these can fully fix is the issue which, however, doesn’t undermine their significance as a tool to tackle illicit trade. Although we as a society can all agree that fighting illicit pesticides that pose threat to our health should be our priority, very few crimes are taken to courts. For example, in Slovenia, 27,1 tons of illegal pesticides have been detected and seized since 2003 according to the Financial Administration, and yet not a single court case was initiated. In Belgium and Italy, the situation isn’t any better. The justice system should take illicit trade more seriously.

Along with increasing the punishment for illicit trade, it is also necessary to re-evaluate, conjointly with farmers associations the approval of these substances. If outlawing some chemical substance on a member state or the EU level leads to a spike in illegal trade, then a comprehensive discussion to find a solution that works for consumers and producers has to take place. Demand for pesticides won’t simply go away, and we cannot solve the problem of booming illicit trade by turning a blind eye to this fact. We need a compromise to protect the wellbeing of European consumers.

Originally published here.

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