Author: Consumer Choice Center

Illinois Considers a Vape Ban in Public Spaces

State Senator Julie Morrison has been striving to put an end to tobacco use by teens since entering the General Assembly. In 2019, she passed a law that increased the state’s tobacco age limit to 21. And after carrying out extensive work to combat smoking, she has turned her attention to vapes.

The state’s existing Smoke Free Illinois Act has prohibited smoking in public and within 15 feet of entrances since 2007. However, when this law took effect most people used combustible tobacco, and now Morrison would like to extend it to vaping via Senate Bill 1561. Last year she also set in place a measure that restricts marketing of vaping productsso that it does not appeal to minors.

Meanwhile in 2022, Senate Bill 3854 was introduced to ban flavoured products including THC vaping devices, heat-not-burn systems and chewing tobacco products. In response to this bill and in line with arguments by tobacco harm reduction experts, Elizabeth Hicks from the U.S. Affairs analyst with the Consumer Choice Center, said that enacting a flavour ban for vaping products, will just lead former smokers back to smoking.

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[EU] Public consultation on The future of the electronic communications sector and its infrastructure

The European Commission launched the exploratory consultation on the vision for the
future of the connectivity sector and of the connectivity infrastructure.

You can read the response submitted by the Consumer Choice Center below.

Prestazioni sanitarie, tempi di attesa e nuove tecnologie

Presentato ieri un particolare ‘Indice di risparmio tempo’. I dati mettono a confronto i sistemi di dieci paesi sviluppati e ne evidenziano le disuguaglianze (allo scopo di correggere il sistema)

Il tempo è denaro, recita un vecchio adagio, ancor più se parliamo di quello che ciascuno di noi investe per la propria salute. Mentre la politica (e non solo) si interroga come abbattere le liste di attesa, il Consumer Choice Center (realtà consolidata che rappresenta i consumatori in oltre 100 Paesi del mondo) ha pubblicato un ‘indice di risparmio di tempo’. Di cosa si tratta? L’indice mette a confronto i sistemi di 10 Paesi sviluppati, tra i primi e gli ultimi classificati, in termini di tempo risparmiato dai pazienti per ottenere un appuntamento dal medico, andare in farmacia o in ospedale, ordinare i farmaci e accedere alla contraccezione.
Si tratta del primo database di questo tipo (o almeno con una ampia scala di valutazione), e si prefigge di offrire ai consumatori uno strumento utile a operare le scelte migliori e più sane per sé stessi, nonché di evidenziare lacune strutturali sulle quali richiamare l’attenzione delle politiche sanitarie dei singoli Paesi.

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December 2022

Our mascot Charles wanted us to keep the New Year’s decorations up on CCC’s virtual offices, so please do not mind this cute consumer choice advocate on top of the page. 

If you want to give him some virtual nuts, you can follow us on FacebookInstagramTwitter, and LinkedIn.

Also, we did not want to dishearten Charles because honestly, he did a lot last year: we had over 1300 media hits, 5 new colleagues, and a lot of new ideas!

Over 1300 media hits (let me do the math for ya, almost four hits a day), and here are some of our favorites:

UAE Tops The Global Ranking In Fighting Covid-19 | MSN

Free Up The Cannabis Market | Financial Post

The Trouble With King Charles’ Unorthodox Views On Modern Farming | The Hill

Das Sind Die Zehn Besten Bahnhöfe In Europa – Der European Railway Station Index 2022 | Stern.De

The Study Reveals 62% Of Smokers Believe Anti-Smoking Policies Ignore How Difficult It Is To Stop Smoking | Yahoo News

A Day Late And A Dollar Short: Liberal Budget Fails Consumers | Financial Post

If you want a lovely ride down memory lane, I strongly suggest you to check out each of them.
King Charles piece is my personal favorite: an ambitious journey from Buckingham Palace to the corn fields of Missouri.

Last but not least, the CCC family grew a lot last year! We have 5 new colleagues working with us in championing the benefits of freedom of choice, innovation, and abundance in everyday life. Please welcome Emil Panzaru, Zoltán Kész, Elena Podaneva, Gogi Kamushadze, and yours truly!

We wish you a happy new year with a lot more freedom of choice, innovation, and abundance in your everyday lives!

Taiwanese actress’ vape case triggers debate on smoking alternatives regulation

A SOCIAL media post by Taiwanese actress Charlene An about her apprehension by Thai police and the hefty fine she had to pay for possession of vape product in Bangkok sparked debates on the merits of smoke-free alternative and the need for reasonable regulations.

An said she and her friends had to pay 27,000 baht (about S$1,080) before they could leave after being held and threatened with criminal charges by Thai police for the possession of vaping device. Thailand’s police commissioner issued an apology following An’s post and seven officers were placed under investigation for alleged extortion.

Following this incident that went viral on social media, calls from advocacy groups worldwide on the importance of reasonable and science-based regulation governing smoke-free alternatives like vapes and heated tobacco products ensued.

Nicotine Consumers Union of the Philippines (NCUP) appealed for governments to reconsider less-harmful cigarette alternatives to reduce harm from smoking.

“We hope that other Southeast Asian countries, including Thailand, would recognize the concept of tobacco harm reduction (THR) to save millions of smokers from lung diseases, cancer and even death. Smokers should be given access to less harmful products and make better decisions for themselves,” Anton Israel, NCUP president said.

“Vapes and heated tobacco products are tobacco harm reduction products that deliver nicotine without burning tobacco significantly lowering the number of harmful chemicals than smoking.

Many progressive countries, including the UK and Japan, recognize the role of these products to help smokers abandon cigarettes. Both these countries recorded significant decline in smoking prevalence following the introduction of vapes and heated tobacco products” Israel added.

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Is there a future for cannabis consumption lounges?

After much consultation and a lot of waiting, British Columbia released its What We Heard consultation report on the possibility of cannabis consumption lounges in January. The results were somewhat predictable: cannabis consumers and those connected to the industry were generally in favour, while non-cannabis users were against the plan.

Public health and law enforcement, for their part, expressed similar concerns they’ve had all along with legalization: health consequences, keeping it out of the hands of young people, and increased rates of impaired driving. 

It was far from the slam dunk that some in the industry were hoping to see, and it paints a cloudy picture of the future of consumption spaces. To many, the lack of spaces available to publicly consume cannabis remains one of legalization’s pieces of unfinished business. “This lack of consumption spaces is alienating,” wrote Amanda Siebert last year, “and it continues to stigmatize the plant long after we’ve been told it’s okay to partake in our substance of choice.” 

But if BC’s report is anything to go by, it’s hard to conclude that dedicated consumption cafes are, at this point, anything but a pipe dream. Consultation processes have failed to identify agreed-upon regulatory or business models for the sector, and politicians have been mostly apathetic towards reopening the question—in 2021, The Canadian Press reported that few provincial governments were even considering allowing them any time soon. 

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Taiwan Is About to Ban the Use of Nicotine Vapes

Taiwan looks set to become the next country in Asia to ban nicotine vaping products.

On January 12, amendments to the Tobacco Hazards Prevention Act effectively cleared the legislative floor. Now, the legislation only awaits a presidential nod—a formality given that President Tsai Ing-wen is from the ruling Democratic Progressive Party that proposed it. 

The news, which arrives not long after the Philippines enacted relatively pro-vape regulations, has elicited strong reactions from consumers, policy experts and medical experts, who had some hopes that the tide might be turning in favor of tobacco harm reduction (THR). 

Taiwan appears to be emulating regulations in nearby Japan, where heated tobacco products (HTPs) are sold legally but nicotine vapes are prohibited. The availability of HTPs in Japan has seen a dramatic reduction in cigarette sales. But THR advocates will wonder why an option indicated to have an even lower risk profile—and shown to be a more effective smoking cessation aid than nicotine replacement therapy—is about to become formally illegal. Other Asian countries to have banned vapes include India and Thailand

In Taiwan’s strained governmental nomenclature, HTPs have been classified “designated tobacco products” and are subject to regulation, while vaping devices have been accorded the category of “tobacco-like products.” The imminent ban includes use of e-cigarettes, with penalties of up to $330 for violations. (Previously, vapes had existed in something of a legal gray area.)

This has ignited debate in Taiwan, a country of 24 million where 13 percent of the population smokes, including almost a quarter of men. While millions of upset vape users have been left in the lurch, anti-tobacco groups are meanwhile demanding HTPs be banned too. The law, which will likely come into effect in a month after the presidential assent, will inevitably force vape shops to close and a rapidly growing industry to shutter or go underground.

While it’s difficult to deduce the motivations for the legislative decision, Taiwan policy experts and vape users point to a combination of misinformation, financial considerations trumping public health, and the positions taken by World Health Organization’s Framework Convention for Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC) on novel nicotine alternatives.

“The issue did not have enough public discussion and the approach to harm reduction should be more thoroughly debated,” Simon Lee, the Taiwan policy fellow at Consumer Choice Center, a global consumer advocacy group in Washington, told Filter. “For instance, we have seen misinformation, especially with regard to nicotine, circulating among anti-tobacco activists. It is beyond reasonable doubt that Taiwan’s consumers deserve a much better outcome.”

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#ConsumerChoice: Mental Health

At a time when NHS dental services are in crisis – and A&E, ambulance and nursing services are the focus of industrial action due to pay and conditions adding extra strain on the workload – protecting and supporting the mental health of staff in the workplace must become a priority.

A spokesperson from the Consumer Choice Center reports from an event in Switzerland that aims to address the situation.

As world leaders gather in Davos, Switzerland, the Consumer Choice Center hosted a panel on the importance of mental health support. Speakers discussed how challenges to mental health are increasing after the COVID-19 pandemic, the war in Ukraine, and economic uncertainty, and focused on effective coping techniques.

The “Prioritising Mental Health in Times of Global Crisis” panel was moderated by Jillian Melchior, editorial board member at The Wall Street Journal, with opening remarks by Kathleen Kingsbury, Opinion Editor at The New York Times.

Kingsbury told her audience: “Journalists are no strangers to stress, anxiety and trauma. Just last week we lost a reporter in the newsroom, Blake Hounshell, after a long battle with depression.

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November 2022

November was like a bullet train for us at Consumer Choice Center: we’re very excited to publish our annual Sharing Economy Index, and our North American Affairs Manager David Clement was invited by the ECR party to present to MEPs and stakeholders in Brussels on the topic of PFAS and what smart regulations look like.

The CCC was *very online* this month. We had successful media hits on Orban’s price controls in Politico EU, Brussels Report, and Libération, and some stellar podcast episodes on Maltese cannabis and healthcare competition with Emmanuelle Faubert!

Also, don’t forget to check out our social media campaigns against the EU’s myopic agricultural policies and higher taxes for nicotine products. While you’re at it, don’t mind us asking for some love on FacebookInstagramTwitter, and LinkedIn.

Let’s move on to our top picks for the month!

Getting Sustainability Right  ♻️
“Paper or plastic?” It’s often hard to make the right choice for your pocketbook and the environment. Looking at the facts, we discover that plastic has many benefits. Its invention has been a revolution in many areas: from medical equipment to cleaning gear, from packaging to extend shelf-life to containers keeping our food intact for delivery.In many cases, plastic is in fact the more sustainable choice for consumers. Organizations such as Greenpeace pretend to have the moral high ground without having the facts: single-use plastic shopping bags outperform all its alternatives when it comes to the environment.
Our own Senior Policy Analyst Bill Wirtz points it out here: “Any rule or regulation that restricts the choices of consumers is bad. However, it somehow is even worse when the suggested rule does not even achieve the results it intended. Banning plastics would not just deprive us of products we need but also increase our carbon footprint in many sectors.”
Open Skies for All 🇨🇦🛬
Is there anything more related to freedom than flying? For birds, maybe. Not necessarily for visitors of Ottawa. It is very strange that still, in 2022, the federal government decides how many flights can land in Canada from a certain country based on… a document called “Open Skies Agreement”. The agreement applies to 24 countries and EU member states, and allows consumer choice to prevail when it comes to traveling there and back. For others, there seems to be an unwanted tariff.
As our North American Affairs Manager David Clement says: “If a market-based approach is good enough for 24 countries plus Europe, why isn’t it good enough for all countries? We should let the market decide where Canadians want to travel to, how often and with what carrier.” Preach!
Crypto in Europe after FTX Collapse 🇪🇺
Is there anyone who hasn’t yet heard about FTX and modern villain Sam Bankman-Fried? It’s been an interesting couple few weeks for crypto-nerds out there while many are just struggling to keep up with the latest crypto terms. On top of all that, the EU is crafting its own regulatory scheme in the Markets in Crypto-Assets (MiCA) to supposedly avoid such an FTX in Europe–more confusion.
Fret no more! Our Deputy Director Yaël Ossowski has the perfect piece for you to make sense of it all and he really leans into the principle behind decentralized technologies: “It would benefit us all if rules help bring regulatory clarity, keep shady actors at bay and provide financial transparency. If we want to craft the future of decentralized digital money, it will mean smarter rules that punish bad actors while promoting financial sovereignty.”Added to that, in the US many progressive legislators want to do everything to keep Bitcoin and its crypto offspring from reaching Americans’ hands. Yaël writes up an article pointing out the many progressive tenants of the Bitcoin and crypto economy. Must share with your bleeding heart friends!We’ll also be meeting with regulators in both the US and Europe to discuss the best path for consumer-friendly policies on cryptocurrencies. Keep an eye out for our thoughts afterward!
That is all from us this month! We hope you stay tuned our great work around the world, and please reach out if there are some pressing consumer issues we shouldbe covering.

October 2022

Halloween was hardly the scariest day of October this year. The UK changed their Prime Minister twice in two months, and elections in Brazil created new talking points–to say the least. As always, our team in the Consumer Choice Center has been working tirelessly to defend your rights on every front possible. Before we start, please give us some love on our social media channels because let’s be honest, it is the easiest way to keep up with our work and the team.

Onwards, shall we?

Greens/EFA Report goes after plant researchers.It fails.If you have been following us closely, you already know that the EU is determined to set the bar very low in quality for agricultural policies. They constantly turn their backs on innovation and technology for the sake of ideological talking points. Worse, they do it at the expense of everyone else.In this piece, our Research Director Dr Emil Panzaru points out the inconsistencies of the Greens’ response to the agricultural crisis in Europe: “uncontrollable” genetic engineering, “unsafe mutations”, benefits of 100% organic farming, and much more. As Emil says, Europe’s agricultural policies are “less about science than it is about the politics in science.” Check it out here.
Press Conference in Brussels 
Together with the World Vapers’ Alliance, CCC is fighting the good fight for consumers’ lifestyle choices. In October, we had two major events to remember our cause.First, we held a press conference in Brussels to present the results from our survey on Perceptions on Tobacco Harm Reduction and Nicotine in France and Germany. Let me give you two shocking facts here, but you can read more here:Only 3 out of 15 doctors in Germany say they know the term “harm reduction”.69% of smokers in France and 74% of smokers in Germany wrongly believe nicotine causes cancer.
Politicians Are Coming for the App Store
On the other side of the world, the Wild West is wildin’ as usual. New legislation and an antitrust lawsuit threaten Apple’s monopoly over its App Store. Our Tech Policy Fellow Satya Marar correctly identifies that “It would also encourage investment in developer start-ups and could lower prices for in-app purchases, including for emerging technologies like NFTs, by allowing developers to circumvent Apple’s commissions through alternative digital payment methods.”
Satya also points out to the other unintended consequences of the Open App Markets Act, which may have some negative implications, too. I will leave it to you to find them out in the piece here.

Last but not least, our European Railway Station Index is still getting media attention!Inspired by two indices, the European Consumer Airport Index and the European Train Station Index in 2020. We looked at Europe’s 50 largest railway stations and ranked them in terms of passenger experience, crowdedness, and the variety of destinations. Check it out on our website!Also, keep your eyes peeled for this year’s Sharing Economy Index in the upcoming weeks!
That is all from us this month! We hope you stay tuned our great work around the world, and please reach out if there are some pressing consumer issues we shouldbe covering.
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