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Author: Anna Arunashvili

Pentingnya Riset Pelaku Pengguna Vape di Indonesia untuk Kebijakan yang Tepat

Vape saat ini merupakan salah satu produk yangs udah dikonsumsi dan digunakan oleh jutaan orang di seluruh dunia, termasuk juga di Indonesia. Kita, khususnya yang tinggal di daerah perkotaan, tentunya akan sangat mudah bisa melihat banyak pengguna vape di sekitar kita.

Di Indonesia sendiri misalnya, konsumsi vape atau rokok elektrik mengalami peningkatan dari tahun ke tahun. Pada tahun 2011 misalnya, prevalensi pengguna rokok elektrik di Indonesia sejumlah 0,3%. Angka ini mengalami peningkatan yang pesat pada tahun 2021 menjadi 3% atau setara dengan 6,2 juta penggguna vape yang ada di Indonesia (republika.co.id, 31/5/2022).

Semakin meningkatnya pengguna vape di Indonesia ini tentu juga membawa dampak yang signifikan terhadap perkembangan industri rokok elektrik yang ada di negara kita. Pada tahun 2022 lalu mislanya, industri vape di Indonesia mampu menyerap jumlah pekerja sekitar 100.000 pekerja. Angka tersebut tentu bukan jumlah yang sedikit (liputan6.com, 13/6/2022).

Semakin meningkatnya pengguna vape di Indonesia ini juga menimbulkan pro dan kontra dari beberapa pihak. Asosiasi kesehatan Ikatan Dokter Indonesia (IDI) misalnya, menghimbau masyarakat untuk tidak menggunakan vape karena produk ini dianggap memiliki tingkat bahaya yang sama dengan rokok konvensional yang dibakar (cnnindonesia.com, 24/9/2019).

Untuk itu, tidak sedikit pihak-pihak yang mengadvokasi agar pemerintah bisa melarang, atau setidaknya meregulasi secara sangat ketat, industri vape atau rokok elektrik. Di kawasan Asia Tenggara sendiri, sudah ada beberapa negara yang menerapkan pelarangan konsumsi dan juga distribusi vape, diantaranya adalah Singapura dan juga Thailand.

DI sisi lain, ada juga negara-negara yang mengambil langkah yang berbeda. Inggris misalnya, beberapa waktu lalu, justru mengeluarkan aturan yang berbeda 180 derajat dari langkah yang diambil oleh Singapura dan Thailand. Inggris justru menggunakan vape sebagai alat yang bisa digunakan untuk membantu warganya berhenti merokok.

Lembaga penyedia layanan kesehatan publik asal Inggris, National Health Service (NHS) misalnya, telah mengadvokasi hal tersebut. NHS sendiri menyatakan bahwa vape tidak 100% aman, tetapi roko elektrik tidak menghasilkan tar dan karbon monoksida yang merupakan dua elemen yang paling membahayakan dari rokok konvensional yang dibakar, dan karena itu dampak bahaya dari vape jauh lebih kecil bila dibandingkan dengan rokok (nhs.uk, 20/10/2022).

Kampanye yang dilakukan oleh NHS di Inggris sendiri sudah terbukti berhasil mengurangi jumlah perokok yang ada di negara kerajaan tersebut. Berdasarkan data dari Office for National Statistics misalnya, menunjukkan bahwa, jumlah perokok sudah berkurang di Inggris dari sekitar 14% di tahun 2020, menjadi 13,3% di tahun 2021 setelahnya (bbc.com, 6/12/2022).

Kembali ke Indonesia, fenomena semakin meningkatnya pengguna vape di Indonesia sendiri merupakan hal yang cukup menarik untuk kita lihat dan teliti. Tentunya, dari semakin banyaknya pengguna vape di Indonesia, ada berbagai alasan beragam yang dimiliki oleh para pengguna vape tersebut tentang mengapa mereka memutuskan untuk menggunakan rokok elektrik.

Berdasarkan survei tahun 2019 misalnya, 58% perempuan dan 71% lai-laki menyatakan bahwa mereka memilih untuk mengonsumsi vape karena produk tersebut lebih ringan bila dibandingkan dengan rokok konvesional yang dibakar (goodstats.id, 16/1/2023). Tentunya, bila rokok konvensional dilarang, hal tersebut akan membawa dampak yang signifkan terhadap banyak orang.

Di luar negeri, sudah ada penelitian yang berupaya untuk menjawab pertanyaan kira-kira apa yang akan terjadi bila vape dilarang. Di Inggris misalnya, sekitar sepertiga dari pengguna vape di negara tersebut akan beralih dan kembali menggunakan rokok konvensional yang dibakar bila rokok elektrik dilarang di negara tersebut (independent.co.uk, 7/4/2023).

Bila ini terjadi, tentu hal tersebut merupakan bentuk kemunduran dari upaya harm reduction dari rokok. Dengan demikian, tidak sedikit konsumen yang tidak memiliki pilihan selain menggunakan produk yang jauh lebih berbahaya seperti rokok konvensional yang dibakar.

Di Indonesia sendiri, riset seperti ini tentu sangat dibutuhkan, agar para pengambil kebijakan dapat mengeluarkan dan mengesahkan kebijakan yang tepat dan tidak kontra produktif. Sebagai salah satu negara dengan tingkat prevalensi perokok tertinggi di dunia, adanya upaya harm reduction dari dampak rokok tentu merupakan langkah yang sangat penting untuk dilakukan.

Dengan demikian, bila sudah ada penelitian mengenai dampak tersebut, para pengambil kebijakan bisa menimbang apakah misalnya, langkah kebijakan yang keras terhadap vape, seperti regulasi ketat hingga pelarangan total, merupakan sesuatu yang tepat. Jangan sampai, langkah yang diambil justru menimbulkan dampak yang lebih buruk.

Sebagai penutup, vape atau rokok elektrik saat ini merupakan hal yang menjadi bagian keseharian bagi jutaan masyarakat di Indonesia. Ada berbagai alasan dan sebab yang dimiliki oleh para konsumen untuk menggunakan produk tersebut. Untuk itu, adanya riset mengenai perilaku para pengguna tersebut merupakan hal yang sangat penting, khususnya bagi mereka para pembuat kebijakan agar bisa mengeluarkan kebijakan yang tepat.

Originally published here

Comment le « Green Deal » européen est mort

L’échec du « Green Deal » européen est un avertissement pour tous les décideurs politiques…

Le Parlement européen a rejeté le projet de loi sur l’utilisation durable des pesticides, qui constituait la pierre angulaire du « Green Deal » européen et de la stratégie « Farm to Fork ».

En 2020, l’Union européenne a prévu une réforme fondamentale du secteur agricole de l’Union, en réduisant l’utilisation des pesticides et des engrais et en encourageant l’agriculture biologique. Bien que certaines propositions restent d’actualité, les législateurs sont pratiquement revenus sur leurs positions d’il y a trois ans, et il y a de bonnes raisons à cela.

Lorsque l’UE a dévoilé ses projets de réforme, le COVID en était à sa phase initiale, on pensait qu’il avait été vaincu par des blocages rigoureux, et l’Ukraine n’avait pas encore été envahie par la Russie. Les taux d’intérêt étaient presque négatifs et, depuis la chambre d’écho qu’est l’exécutif européen, il semblait opportun de bouleverser l’ensemble du système alimentaire et agricole.

Après une première réaction politique plutôt molle, les commissaires de l’UE ont persisté. C’est pour le bien de l’environnement, ont-ils dit. Toutefois, il est rapidement apparu que ces projets allaient coûter très cher : selon l’USDA, ils s’accompagneraient d’une baisse de la production agricole comprise entre 7% et 12% et auraient un impact significatif sur le PIB global du continent. Pourtant, la Commission européenne, l’organe exécutif de l’UE, a persisté : les pesticides chimiques, même s’ils sont approuvés par le régulateur indépendant, doivent être réduits.

Des fissures ont commencé à apparaître dans la sincérité de l’exécutif de l’UE lorsque le président Macron, puis d’autres chefs d’Etat européens, ont commencé à douter de la possibilité de mettre en oeuvre ces règles. Les représentants des agriculteurs avaient indiqué qu’ils rejetaient les objectifs des stratégies de l’UE.

Les élections provinciales néerlandaises, qui ont vu la victoire d’un parti agricole ayant fait campagne contre la politique gouvernementale visant à réduire les émissions de gaz à effet de serre conformément à la législation de l’UE, ont marqué le début de la fin. Le BoerBurgerBeweging (BBB), également connu sous le nom de Mouvement des agriculteurs-citoyens, a remporté une victoire importante lors des élections provinciales aux Pays-Bas. Avec un nombre impressionnant de 15 sièges sur 75 au Sénat, il occupe désormais la position du parti le plus influent au sein de la chambre haute du pays. Le BBB a été créé en 2019, mais il a bénéficié d’un large soutien à la suite de la décision du gouvernement de réduire les émissions d’azote, en fermant environ un tiers des exploitations agricoles néerlandaises.

Les protestations des agriculteurs aux Pays-Bas ne sont que la partie émergée de l’iceberg de la boîte de Pandore que l’UE a ouverte en s’immisçant dans le système agricole européen.

La vision utopique et déformée de l’agriculture véhiculée par l’environnement se heurte aux besoins réels des consommateurs. En fait, la solution européenne consistant à développer l’agriculture bio va à l’encontre de l’objectif de réduction des émissions de dioxyde de carbone. Les émissions de CO2 augmenteront de 70% si l’agriculture biologique devient la norme, comme l’ont montré des chercheurs britanniques. La raison en est simple : l’agriculture biologique a besoin de plus de ressources et de plus de terres agricoles pour obtenir le même rendement. Les aliments biologiques sont donc non seulement moins bons pour l’environnement, mais aussi plus chers pour les consommateurs.

Il s’est avéré que la réduction des terres agricoles européennes, tout en privant les agriculteurs du droit de prévenir adéquatement la propagation des parasites, n’a pas été bien accueillie par les électeurs. Dès lors, le Parti populaire européen (PPE), le plus grand parti du Parlement européen – qui devrait rester en place après les prochaines élections –, s’est autoproclamé parti de l’agriculteur, a démoli pièce après pièce le « Green Deal » européen. Nombre de ses composantes restantes ne seront probablement pas soumises au vote avant les élections européennes de juin.

D’ailleurs, Frans Timmermans, l’architecte néerlandais du « Green Deal » européen, a déjà quitté son poste pour tenter de devenir Premier ministre dans son pays, un pari qui ne s’est pas encore concrétisé à l’issue des récentes élections.

En l’espace de trois ans seulement, l’Union européenne est passée de l’affirmation qu’elle était sur le point de réaliser une réforme sans précédent en matière de changement climatique à la mise à mort de ses propres ambitions.

Cet échec du « Green Deal » européen est un avertissement pour tous les décideurs politiques. Repenser l’agriculture et l’environnement exige une approche équilibrée qui intègre les préoccupations des agriculteurs, garantit une communication transparente et s’adapte aux réalités changeantes. Le succès futur des initiatives environnementales dépend de la capacité des politiciens à forger des consensus solides, respectant les diverses perspectives et assurant la viabilité à long terme des politiques adoptées.

Originally published here

EU’s green agenda and PFAS ban are incompatible

As part of the climate agenda, the European Union and member states have advocated the phasing out of gas-powered vehicles by 2035. The goal is to have at least 30 million electric vehicles on European roads by 2030, which would be a 2900% increase from the current amount. With demand for electric vehicles soaring in the EU, domestic industries are looking for innovative ways to establish supply chains for batteries and other components.

On the one hand, the EU seeks to boost the market for electric vehicles to achieve its climate targets. On the other hand, the proposed blanket PFAS (Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances) ban, pledged by the European Commission, will make it impossible to manufacture EVs in the EU.

PFAS are key to the production of EVs. However, instead of considering the spillover effects of banning over 4000 chemicals that carry individual risks, the EU decided to take the same approach as the US move towards banning all of them. In the US, the PFAS Action Act which would heavily restrict all these substances is awaiting the final decision in the Senate. Both the EU and US are on the verge of making the same policy mistake that will achieve nothing except make consumer products more expensive and hinder innovation.

PFAS are used to produce life-saving medical equipment and are vital for contamination-resistant gowns, implantable medical devices, heart patches, etc. These chemicals are also widely used in green technology production. In particular, solar panels, wind turbines, and lithium-ion batteries.

Fluoropolymers (one specific class of PFAS) are an essential part of green technology. Fluoropolymers are used to produce lithium batteries, the power source behind electric vehicles. They are durable, heat and chemical resistant, and have superior dielectric properties, all of these qualities make it hard for other chemicals to compete. If PFAS are banned as a class, the green ambitions of switching to electric vehicles would be extremely difficult to turn into policy. The blanket PFAS ban would cause further disruptions in the EV supply chain, increasing costs for consumers and ultimately making them less attractive as an alternative to gasoline vehicles.

Fluoropolymers are also used in coating and sealing solar panels and wind turbines that protect against harsh weather conditions. Fluoropolymers provide safety by preventing leaks and environmental releases in a range of renewable energy applications. The unique characteristics of PFAS such as water, acid, and oil resistance make these substances hard to replace.

Unless damaged, solar panels continue to produce energy beyond their lifeline. Fluoropolymers are what make solar panels durable. Going solar requires significant investments and without fluoropolymers, the risk of producing and installing them will increase, and production shortages will follow. This is exactly what is currently happening in Europe with microchips, which rely on PFAS in the production process. The closing of a plant in Belgium has left semiconductor manufacturers on the verge of serious production delays.

That is not to say that PFAS are risk-free. A 2021 study by Australian National University confirms that the PFAS exposure does carry some risk, but that most exposure comes from contaminated water. If EU regulators really want to make a difference, their legislation should focus on regulating PFAS from a clean water approach, as opposed to a full ban that comes with a long list of externalities.

The proposed ban is also problematic because fundamentally it won’t drive down demand for PFAS. Banning will shift production to countries like China, where environmental considerations are nearly non-existent. As a result, European regulators will be giving China the upper hand for both EV battery production, solar panels, and semiconductors. Not to mention, banning a substance that is key to so many production processes will magnify the damage caused by inflation. For European EV and solar panels producers, the PFAS ban will be a huge hurdle that is extremely difficult to overcome.

If the European Union is really as determined to pursue a transition to EVs as they suggest, the PFAS blanket ban should be called off. Instead, PFAS should be assessed individually and where poor production processes result in water contamination, the government should intervene.

Originally published here

Democrats Can’t Have Both PFAS Ban and EV Transition: Choose One

As part of the climate agenda, Democrats have advocated the phasing out of motor vehicles. The goal is to ensure that electric vehicles make up half of all new vehicles sold by 2030. To accomplish this task, tax credits of up to $12,500 could be offered.

Democrats have put electric vehicles at the heart of their climate ambitions. While that all sounds great on paper, the reality is more complex. The extensively demonised PFAS (Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances)–known as forever chemicals–which Democrats want to ban are key to the production of EVs. Either Democrats call off the prospect of a full PFAS ban, or their EV agenda will never be realised.

PFAS are the latest target of regulators in the United States. They are a group of over 4000 chemicals that carry individual risks; benefits and availability of substitutes vary as well. Turning a blind eye to the complexity of these substances, Democrats introduced the PFAS Action Act in April 2021. The Act is now with the Senate’s Committee on Environment and Public Works.

PFAS are used to produce life-saving medical equipment and are vital for contamination-resistant gowns, implantable medical devices, heart patches, etc. These chemicals are also widely used in green technology production. In particular, solar panels, wind turbines, and lithium-ion batteries.

Fluoropolymers (one specific class of PFAS) are an essential part of green technology. Fluoropolymers are used to produce lithium batteries, the power source behind electric vehicles. They are durable, heat and chemical resistant, and have superior dielectric properties, all of these qualities make it hard for other chemicals to compete. If PFAS are banned as a class, the green ambitions of switching to electric vehicles would be extremely difficult to turn into policy. The PFAS Action Act would cause further disruptions in the EV supply chain, increasing costs for consumers and ultimately making them less attractive as an alternative to gasoline vehicles.

Fluoropolymers are also used in coating and sealing solar panels and wind turbines that protect against harsh weather conditions. Fluoropolymers provide safety by preventing leaks and environmental releases in a range of renewable energy applications. The unique characteristics of PFAS such as water, acid, and oil resistance make these substances hard to replace. 

Unless damaged, solar panels continue to produce energy beyond their lifeline. Fluoropolymers are what make solar panels durable. Going solar requires significant investments and without fluoropolymers, the risk of producing and installing them will increase. It is already expensive to build solar panels in the U.S., and the blanket PFAS will exacerbate it. In fact, this is exactly what is happening in Europe with microchips, which rely on PFAS in the production process, where the closing of a plant in Belgium is on the verge of causing serious production delays.

That is not to say that PFAS are risk-free. A 2021 study by ​​Australian National University confirms that the PFAS exposure comes entirely from water. If Democrats really want to make a difference, their legislation should focus on processes that are harmful instead of single handedly banning all PFAS. 

The proposed ban is also problematic because fundamentally it won’t drive down demand for PFAS. Banning will shift production to countries like China, where environmental considerations are nearly non-existent. As a result, American regulators will be giving China the upper hand for both EV battery production, solar panels, and semiconductors. Not to mention, that banning a substance that is key to so many production processes will magnify the damage caused by inflation. For American EV and solar panels producers, the PFAS ban will be a huge hurdle that is extremely difficult to overcome.

If Democrats are really as determined to pursue a transition to EVs as they suggest, the PFAS blanket ban should be called off. Instead, PFAS should be assessed individually and where poor production processes result in water contamination, the government should intervene.

The new Pandemic Resilience Index is out, what has changed since 2021?

Covid-19 pandemic took the world by storm. Most countries’ healthcare systems proved to be entirely unprepared for a health crisis of this scale. Some countries were able to react and adapt more swiftly than others. Pandemic Resilience Index (PRI), presented by the Consumer Choice Center back in 2021, ranked countries based on their resilience to Covid-19 and other similar crises. 

The PRI examined 40 countries by several factors: vaccination approval, its drive, and time lags that have put brakes on it, critical care bed capacity, and mass testing. Israel came in first, followed by UAE, while Australia, New Zealand, and Ukraine ended up at the very bottom. 

Recently, we updated the PRI. Compared to the initial results, the change in the ranking is primarily due to the booster vaccine rollout delays. 

This year, the UAE found itself at the top of the ranking, closely followed by Cyprus. UAE was a pioneer in booster rollout, having given booster shots to about 42% of its 10 million population. Unfortunately, not all countries were quick to react to new variants and the subsequent need for additional doses. Countries like Canada, New Zealand, Australia, and Ukraine took five months longer than the UAE – the first country to start the programme – to get booster rollout up and running. 

Ukraine and India are the only countries that hadn’t rolled out the booster programme by November 30, 2021 (The PRI 2022 uses November 30 2021 as a cutoff date). According to the Ukrainian first deputy health minister, they wanted to reach the target of having at least 50% of the population fully vaccinated, before allowing for boosters shot to be administered, a goal that is yet to be reached. At the moment, both countries have acknowledged the need for booster shots and rolled it out at the beginning of this year. 

Israel, ranked number one in the PRI 2021, was demoted to 5th place, mainly due to its delay with vaccine rollout, which started 75 days after the UAE. The UAE started administering booster shots to its residents back in May 2021, while on average other countries lagged 3 months behind. 

Cyprus reached the second place mainly due to its high testing rates. The daily covid test average per capita 128 times higher than in Brazil, for example.

Greece had the most significant percentage change in terms of daily testing. Most countries saw an increase in this aspect, except for Luxembourg and Sweden, where the change was negative. Ukraine, with the second-lowest number of daily covid tests, remains at the bottom. 

When it comes to vaccination rates, Brazil has seen the most impressive improvement in vaccination numbers since the Pandemic Resilience Index 2021 was published. The number of vaccinated people in Brazil increased from 2.4% to 63% by the end of November 2021.

Availability of booster shots is especially important as not only does it provide better protection, but more and more countries are putting expiration dates on vaccines. For example, to visit France, if it’s been more than nine months since your last vaccine shot, you have first to get a booster shot. Despite delays, all of the studied countries (except for Ukraine and India) had already started offering booster shots to their population before the emergence of the new Omicron variant. 

Despite the initial one-year-long shock that everyone experienced, with restrictions getting lifted, scrapping of vaccine passports in some countries and border reopenings, it seems we are finally getting back to everyday lives. While we hope we never have to deal with a pandemic of such size ever again, countries worldwide must learn a lesson from this horrid experience and have their healthcare systems better prepared for any upcoming threats. 

Colombia’s Uber ban is protectionist and ignores consumers

While Europe is arguing over the employment status of drivers and delivery workers employed in the platform economy sector, Colombia faces an entirely different type of problem. 

After having operated in the country for six years in a legal gray area, Uber was forced out of the Colombian market against the backdrop of repeated resistance from the taxi companies and drivers. As of 2020, Uber had 2.3 million users around the country. 

Because of Uber’s popularity, Colombian taxi drivers, who have to pay extremely high fees for acquiring operating licenses, felt they were put at a disadvantage. They filed a lawsuit targeting Uber. According to an attorney leading the case, other ride-hailing apps present on the market, such as Didi, Beat, Cabify were to be sued next. Scapegoating Uber for its success doesn’t help anyone–but, above all, it hurts consumers.

The court decided that Uber had indeed violated competition rules and was ordered to cease its operations across the country.

Sharing economy platforms are innovative and adaptable – their entrepreneurial spirit is outstanding. Uber found a loophole in the court’s ruling that quickly helped them get back in the market. Renting cars is entirely legal, and Uber came up with a new business model that allowed users to rent a vehicle with a driver. The court decision was soon overturned, but Uber remains illegal. Its drivers ask passengers to take the front seat to avoid unwanted attention from the police, which could result in fines and/or having their vehicles confiscated. 

The availability of ride-hailing apps such as Uber on the Colombian market provides an alternative to traditional taxis. However, both are equally important. Both services have their target audience. Governments should not intervene by banning or creating unfavourable conditions, so drivers fear getting stopped by police and receiving significant fines. Consumers should choose to use their smartphones to arrange a ride or hail a taxi in the street.

Uber solves many problems in the Colombian market which are concerning to consumers. First, it’s safety. In Colombia, taxis have a reputation of generally being unsafe. In 2018, for example, “15% of robberies were perpetrated when the victim was using a transportation service“. Uber and its main competitor in Colombia, Didi, offering additional security features, provide an innovative solution to this problem. 

A dedicated safety support team allows you to get help or report an incident and provides a great overall customer support system. During the ride, the app enables you to share your ride details with trusted people, which adds more to the feeling of security. 

Second, Uber is transparent. When you use Uber, you are aware of the approximate charge before even ordering the ride, and if you have any doubts, the history of each ride is recorded and easily accessible. On the other hand, you don’t have the same transparency when using taxi services. Drivers could take a longer route, pretend not to have any change or round up the fee and ask for more than the meter is showing for the sole reason that “it’s Sunday” like it happened to me on one occasion in Colombia. 

The availability of Uber and other sharing economy services is an important part of Colombia’s attractiveness as a digital nomad hub. Location-independent remote workers who use technology to perform their job rely on sharing economy platforms for their accommodation and transportation needs. As an internationally trusted company, Uber is the preferred mode of transportation because of the aforementioned reasons. Dealing with taxis could be much more complicated for people who don’t speak the local language, but with Uber, you drive with certainty and security. Even if Uber can be more expensive during the rush hours, paying a little extra is worth it for other digital nomads based in Colombia and me.

Consumers’ lives have changed with the emergence of ride-hailing. Banning a preferred service by millions of consumers in the country sets a wrong precedent and puts the future of already established or currently emerging innovative services in jeopardy. Colombia should embrace innovation, encourage the entrepreneurial spirit and facilitate entry barriers for more sharing economy services.  

The EU is after gig economy: what does this mean?

Recently, the European Commission published draft legislation, planning to regulate the employment status of gig workers across the bloc. There have been multiple attempts of defining worker rights and status at the country level, with contradicting court decisions, and it seems like the EU commission wants to take matters into its own hands. 

Sharing economy is a platform-based type of exchange that allows individuals and groups to share their services peer-to-peer. Platforms only act as intermediaries and facilitators, instantly connecting the supply with demand, but not everyone sees sharing economy platforms in this way. Ride-hailing and delivery services have come under fire for treating drivers and delivery workers as contractors. The EU Commission and a few member states such as The Netherlands say that they should be given the employers’ rights.

This EU initiative has received different reactions. While unions found a reason for celebration, ride-hailing and delivery platforms rally against it. Uber and Delivery Platforms Europe, the group of food delivery platforms, voiced their concerns about the impact this initiative will have on consumer choice and the thousands of jobs it threatens. Changing the business model may not be feasible for all the companies, as it could force them out of some EU markets. According to a recent study, up to 250,000 couriers could quit if legislation reduces flexibility around working hours and schedules. This has already happened with Deliveroo and Spain. After a new Spanish “Rider Law” entered into the force in August, the company had to cease all operations and 8,000 couriers ended up losing their jobs. 

The contractor status gives drivers flexibility and the chance to choose their working hours. In our fast-changing world, that is especially appealing. Furthermore, with the increased risk of getting laid off as a result of another lockdown, engaging in the gig economy lets Europeans diversify their income sources. They can work for different ride-hailing apps simultaneously, which would be impossible in the case of full employee status. It also allows those drivers to mix various engagements and find which one works best for them. A 2018 study of Uber drivers in London demonstrated that flexible schedule, along with autonomy was the main benefit for them, while another study found that being an independent contractor is associated with “greater enjoyment of daily activities, a decrease in psychological strain”.

Delivery drivers are no different, two-thirds of respondents of a study by Copenhagen Economics name flexibility as the main reason for working as a courier and over 70% of them wouldn’t be willing to switch to fixed-schedule work.

For workers, the draft legislation would mean a loss of flexibility to decide their working hours and the ability to work for several platforms simultaneously. For European consumers, these changes would mean a hike in sharing economy services prices, which they have been relying heavily on during the pandemic. This can lead to decreased demand for food delivery services, and in the light of current lockdowns and restrictions, the restaurant business also ends with the short end of the stick. 

One size doesn’t fit all: some prefer using traditional taxi services, others are more comfortable with ride-hailing apps. Just because taxi drivers are faced with substantial licensing fees that drive up the cost of the service, doesn’t mean we should overburden ride-hailing platforms with the same regulations and restrictions. If European governments want to create a level playing field, they should make things easier for taxi drivers and gig workers, as happened in the case of Estonia. The Estonian government legalized the sharing economy “at a time when a large part of the world is finding protectionist reasons to prohibit the sharing economy” and lessened previous regulatory burden on taxis. The Estonian government didn’t try to cover employment status and rightly so, as according to recent polls 76.4% of platform workers in Estonia use the gig economy to supplement their income.

Consumer habits have changed and even after the pandemic is finally over, it is likely that we will keep ordering food from the comfort of our own homes. These platforms provide unique value to millions of consumers around Europe. If we transfer the exact rules and regulations traditional services are faced with —as the EU Commission intends to do—we risk losing everything that makes the sharing economy unique and attractive. Consumers are the ones who will have to bear the burden of restricted choice and increased prices. 

End the War on Nicotine

Reducing the number of smokers remains public health priority for governments around the world. However, the war against nicotine prevents further progress.

The bad reputation of nicotine is getting in the way of providing smokers with a safer alternative to traditional tobacco cigarettes. A new paper, published by the Consumer Choice Center, aims to debunk myths associated with nicotine and provide some more clarity around what nicotine actually is.

Smoking rates have been steadily declining but it is not thanks to tools applied by the governments,  but rather the innovative alternatives to smoking such as e-cigarettes, snus, etc. Unfortunately, rather than promote an alternative that is far less harmful and gives people a chance to live healthier and longer lives, public officials are waging a war on nicotine. This limits access to those life-saving alternatives. 

Contrary to popular belief, the harm from smoking comes from the thousands of other chemicals in tobacco smoke, many of which are toxic. And while nicotine is an addictive substance, it is relatively harmless and doesn’t increase the risk of serious illnesses (heart attack, stroke) or mortality.

Unlike vaping, conventional nicotine replacement therapies, such as patches, nasal sprays, gums are endorsed by public health bodies. Going against vape and snus just because it is a different way of consuming nicotine is inconsistent, to say the least. NRTs work for some people, but others prefer vaping, and it should be up to consumers to choose their preferred harm-reduction tool. Instead of limiting their choices, we should use all tools at our disposal to help smokers switch.  

Nicotine has been demonised for so long that the health benefits of nicotine consumption have been completely ignored. Research since the 1960’s has demonstrated that smokers show lower rates of Parkinson’s disease, and recently a study suggested the reason for this is nicotine. Another study suggests that nicotine has an appetite suppressing effect and therefore acts as a weight suppressant, and could be used to fight obesity Studies also suggest that nicotine can improve exercise endurance and strength. This explains why many professional athletes use nicotine to improve their performance.

Distorted perceptions about nicotine stand in the way of more smokers switching to less harmful ways of consuming nicotine. Many physicians falsely believe that nicotine is the substance causing cancer in patients. Public health advocates and health experts need to get educated on the topic and encourage smokers to switch to alternatives, such as vaping which is 95% less harmful than traditional cigarettes.  

Prohibition doesn’t work, as demonstrated by the American prohibition era and numerous other examples. Instead, it pushes consumers towards the black market where providing high quality products is not a priority.

Innovative nicotine products have the potential to save millions of lives around the world, and we should not allow misconceptions get in the way of the fight against smoking-induced diseases.

Read our new paper “Six reasons to stop the war on nicotine” to find out more on the topic

Electric or motor vehicle? Let consumers decide

Emissions from the transportation sector account for 25% of all EU emissions. In an effort to reduce net greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55%, the European commission announced its plan to ban the sales of new cars that produce carbon emissions by 2035. Enabling this sales ban would require approval from all member states, and it could take up to 2 years to obtain it. The EU has set an ambitious goal of becoming the first climate-neutral continent by 2050, and achieving this goal requires equally ambitious changes to be made.

Massive adoption of electric cars is thought to be a good strategy to fight climate change. Green groups, like Greenpeace, are advocating for financial incentives for EVs while disincentivizing the sale of diesel and petrol cars. But there are many aspects that have to be taken into consideration before EVs are dubbed as environmentally friendly. 

EVs have a lot of advantages: they are low maintenance, don’t run on fuel, therefore produce no emissions, fully charging them is a lot cheaper than filling up a tank of a motor vehicle. But they come with downsides too.  EVs require electricity to be charged and if the electricity itself does not come from clean sources such as hydro, solar or nuclear power and is instead produced by burning fossil fuels, would they make any difference? Adopting electric vehicles only makes sense if countries rely on low-carbon energy supply sources and have the ability to store renewable energy. As of today, it is a big challenge for many European countries, not to mention developing countries.

Another problem with electric vehicles is the lack of infrastructure. Currently, most EU countries lack charging stations, and it would require 1.8 billion investment to deploy the target number of charging points. Recently, auditors have also dubbed the deployment of electric vehicle charging stations as too slow

However, while it is important to discuss how exactly our transition to EVs is going to work, there is a greater issue at play. Banning the sales of motor vehicles reinforces the dangerous precedent of the government picking winners and losers. Drivers of the internal combustion engine cars are already some of the most heavily taxed consumers. They face various taxes and charges that account for most of their mobility costs. Price of petrol and diesel is excessively high and the average government share of fuel price across the EU varies between 44-59%. (Read our recent paper to find out more on this topic)

Arguments can be made for and against both electric and internal combustion engine vehicles. The main issue is that rather than leaving it up to consumers to choose their desired technology, the government is making the final call for us. Automobile companies are already working towards making internal combustion engines more fuel efficient and according to EEA “carbon intensity of newly-registered gasoline-powered cars in Europe fell an average of 25% between 2006 and 2016”.  


Transition to EVs should happen naturally and not forced upon us by government bodies. Many companies are voluntarily shifting their manufacturing process towards the EVs and European consumers are quite open to the idea of purchasing electric cars. And all of this is happening without government mandates! The European Union should adhere to technology neutrality to preserve consumer choice and foster innovation.

Innovation in Agriculture Will Help Combat the Climate Change

The world population is expected to reach 10 billion by 2050. As natural resources are limited, and in order to meet the needs of an ever-growing world population, we need to increase our food production. However, a more pressing problem is to ensure that is not done at the expense of the environment. The agricultural sector is a significant contributor to greenhouse gas emissions, both through direct activities and land changes. 

European policymakers are betting on organic farming and through their “Farm to Fork” strategy. They want to reach a 25 percent organic production target. Even though organic agriculture has become interchangeable with sustainable agriculture, it might not be the most viable solution for our planet and our population. Organic farming has low yields and without the use of pesticides, farmers are bound to lose 30 to 40 percent of their crops. If we were to rely on organic farming alone, we would need to set aside more land for agricultural production which can only be achieved through deforestation.

Deforestation is already a pressing issue and one of the causes of climate change. It would make zero sense to cut down trees to free up the land for farming. In 2017, researchers at the Research Institute of Organic Agriculture in Switzerland estimated that if the world chose to fully convert to organic agriculture, we would need between 16 and 81% more land to feed the planet. Attendees at the UN’s COP26 have already promised to end deforestation by 2030, but putting more effort into the development of organic food production would be incongruous to their pledge. 

The answers to these problems, therefore, must be innovation.

The European Union is lagging behind on this front. Current GMO legislation, which was established back in 2001, strictly regulates the introduction of DNA from other species into animals and plants. Unfortunately, very promising gene-editing tools, such as CRISPR-Cas9, are not exempted from the regulations, even though the technique does not entail inserting foreign DNA, as is often mistakenly claimed.

Such outdated legislation prevents European scientists from participating in the gene revolution and European farmers from taking advantage of all benefits this innovative sector has to offer. CRISPR could produce climate-resilient crops with higher yields. It can also add or remove features that would make crops more adaptable, think of gluten-free wheat that would make gluten-free products just as affordable as the gluten-based ones (at the moment it is 183% more expensive)

Gene-editing allows for the creation of disease-resistant crops. CRISPR technology can be used to build resistance to all plant pathogens, bacteria, viruses, and fungi, eliminating the need to use pesticides and fertilizers.

The solution is right in front of us, and we should not allow perceived threats, especially those that are not backed by substantial evidence, to stop us from adopting technologies that can benefit farmers, consumers and our planet equally.

If you want to know more about the topic, we recommend reading our papers Sustainable Agriculture and It’s in Our Genes

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