UK: Bipartisan Inquiry Into The UN’s Harmful Anti-Vaping Regulations

With growing international recognition of the danger to public health the World Health Organization poses, it is pleasing to see that across the pond a bi-partisan committee has been established to launch an inquiry into the scandal-prone taxpayer-funded bureaucracy. 

The All Party Parliamentary Group for Vaping, comprised of Members of Parliament across all sides of politics, is currently collecting evidence on the failures of the UN’s anti-tobacco harm reduction policies

The Americans for Tax Reform Affiliate, the Property Rights Alliance, submitted the following testimony to the Inquiry (full version with citations may be downloaded here): 

29 January 2021

Subject: Comments to the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Vaping Inquiry into the Ninth Conference of the Parties

Dear Chairman Pawsey,

Thank you for the opportunity to submit comments to the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Vaping (APPG) inquiry into the Ninth Conference of the Parties (COP9).

Property Rights Alliance (PRA) is an international advocacy and research organization based in Washington, D.C. dedicated to protecting intellectual property rights, physical property rights and promoting innovation around the world.

1.UK Government policies should promote the successful quit aid tools.

There is a consensus in the United Kingdom among academics, scientists, and the medical community that reduced-risk tobacco alternatives such as vaping e-cigarettes are significantly less harmful than smoking combustible cigarettes. Extensive research by Public Health England and the Royal College of Physicians has determined that by providing users with nicotine, but bypassing the combustion process that is the main cause of tobacco-related morbidity, electronic cigarettes are 95% less harmful (Public Health England, 2018) than combustible tobacco. For this reason, over 30 of the world’s leading public health organizations have endorsed nicotine vaping as safer than smoking and an effective way to help smokers quit.

In addition to their relative safety compared to combustible tobacco, scientific data support the function of vaping products as a successful quit aid tool considerably more effective than traditional nicotine replacement therapies. A 2019 study by the U.K. National Health Service published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that e-cigarettes may help adults quit. A group assigned to e-cigarettes as a combustible tobacco replacement were more likely to remain abstinent at one year compared with a group using nicotine replacement products (18% versus 9.9%).

According to a report commissioned on e-cigarettes by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine (2018) which analyzed the findings of 800 peer-reviewed studies, it was determined that there is moderate evidence that risk and severity of dependence are lower for e-cigarettes than combustible tobacco cigarettes. and that there is conclusive evidence that completely substituting e-cigarettes from combustible tobacco cigarettes reduces a user’s exposure to numerous toxicants. The published update of the Cochrane Collaboration review in October 2020 also showed that e-cigarettes helped smokers to achieve long-term smoking abstinence.  It assessed the results of 50 studies from across 13 jurisdictions, representing 12,430 participants.

As a result of their effectiveness as an aid to quit smoking, e-cigarettes have become extremely popular, increasing from about seven million users in 2011 to 41 million in 2018 (Euromonitor International). Over the next 10 years about six million premature deaths could be averted, if most smokers switched to e-cigarettes.With the introduction of e-cigarettes, a rapid drop in the smoking rate has coincided from 19.3% in 2010 to 13.7% in 2018.

Public Health England has played a significant role in advancing evidence-based policymaking and ensuring that alternative nicotine delivery devices, which are less harmful than smoking, are available to smokers who are trying to quit. As such, this is in line with Government Policy to reduce mortality rates.

The FCTC has as its mission to ‘protect present and future generations from the devastating health, social, environmental and economic consequences of tobacco consumption and exposure to tobacco smoke …. to reduce continually and substantially the prevalence of tobacco use and exposure to tobacco smoke.’ Policies enacted under this framework must therefore aim to actually reduce smoking prevalence. Evidence has demonstrated that recent policies promulgated have not only strayed from this goal but are in active opposition to it.  While the UK has played a positive role in terms of reducing the burden of people smoking, and with e-cigarettes helping millions of adult smokers quit smoking, it is disturbing that the World Health Organization thus far refuses to acknowledge the science and is actively advising governments against effective tobacco harm reduction policies.  The government of the United Kingdom should promote harm-reducing practices within the WHO discussions and reduce barriers to access innovative products that are game-changers for smoke-free policies. Any measures that COP9 will propose should recognize the data presented and consider the UK national experience.

The United Kingdom, as a global leader in tobacco control, can ensure that regulatory measures are based on sufficient and convincing data. This is the only case to implement realistic measures to each country that will be efficient. A general idea about the protection of public health is not enough. The reports to COP9 will likely continue to recommend that countries either ban new harm reduction products or regulate them strictly to discourage their use. An example of strict regulation is the Plain Packaging implemented for tobacco, which has been conclusively proven to have failed to have any impact upon smoking rates in any jurisdiction where it has been tried but has instead led to a boon in black market illicit tobacco smuggling by international criminal syndicates.  

2.The discussions within the WHO and COP do not reflect real-life evidence.

The policy positions presented by WHO should be based in realistic and accurate criteria about tobacco consumption and efficacy of harm reduction tobacco products. A procedure based in transparency and public consultation will contribute more to the goal of smoking reduction. The Advisory Bodies (TobReg and TobLanNet) and the Governing body of COP should collect data from independent scientific teams and make them visible to countries like the UK. Similarly, it is a fundamental principle of good government that decisions be made in an open, accountable, and transparent manner. Unfortunately, COP meetings operated behind closed doors, with no opportunity for journalists, scientists or non-profit watchdogs to observe or participate.  Furthermore, there is no public consultation between the release of the Secretariat report and the COP session. WHO should make transparency part of their policy.

As most anti-tobacco policies and legislation ratified under the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC) aim to reduce smoking prevalence, the justification of COP proposals should be formed based on the smoking rate of each category (adults, youth etc), the tobacco consumption and the success of the quit aid tools in each country. Massive bans or brand removals are trade tactics oriented towards the market structure and not the protection of public health. Prohibition time and time again has been shown to fail.

In contrast to the “abstinence only” policy of the WHO, Public Health England (PHE) has offered guidance for employers and organizations looking to introduce policies around e-cigarettes and vaping in public and recommends that such policies should be evidence-based. This is a more sensible system of regulation, which works with consumers to ensure better public health outcomes. It is noted that the UK government can further improve some aspects of its tobacco policy and the constraints (health warnings and advertising ban) imposed by the EU Tobacco Products Directive should be removed so as to ensure smokers have access to appropriate information regarding the health benefits of quitting smoking through vaping.

3.The tobacco control policies for adolescents and the unintended consequences of proposals.

In the UK, the rate of minors using vape products has consistently been below 2 percent.Data from the 2019 ASH YouGov Smokefree youth GB survey suggest that a large majority (93.8% in total) of children ages 11-18 in the UK who have never smoked have also never used an e-cigarette (87.8%) or are not even aware of them (6.0%). The overall trend in tobacco use over time in both adults and children has been downwards since 2010, when e-cigarette use became widespread among adult smokers and ex-smokers (Adult smoking habits in the UK, 2017-2018). A 2018 report by Public Health England found that e-cigarettes are attracting very few young people who have never smoked into regular use and that e-cigarette use among never-smokers is less than 1%. A possible flavor taste ban is a policy measure hurting the public health and the UK Government should be aware of the unintended consequences of such measures. Governmental policies should protect young people and at the same time provide a cessation aid for people attempting to quit smoking. 

The United Kingdom followed the European Tobacco Products Directive in response to the WHO’s call to action in preventing youth from using tobacco products. In a framework of going completely ‘smoke-free’ by 2030, the UK banned the manufacture and sale of menthol cigarettes since 20 May 2020, despite the lack of evidence of flavored tobacco being responsible for any increased tobacco usage. Alternative products such as menthol vaping products  are still available in the market. In some countries such as Netherlands, the Government proposed banning flavors in electronic vaping products as well, a measure that failed to consider the public health benefit of a harm reduction tool.

Flavors must remain available through legal channels as a matter of consumer safety. Otherwise, the black-market will flourish while putting dangerous products in the hands of thousands of consumers. Banning vape flavors practically misinforms smokers about the relative risks of e-cigarettes and limits the usefulness of vaping. Significantly more adults and youth may go back to smoking combustible tobacco. According to the Consumer Choice Center, access to flavors increases the likelihood of quitting smoking by 230% and 260,363 vapers would be driven back to smoking without them.

According to the ASH Smokefree Great Britain 2019 Survey, if the flavours were banned, 1 in 5 smokers said they would either smoke more tobacco or return to smoking tobacco. A US 2017 survey of young adults using both e-cigarettes and vaping products, indicated that a ban on e-liquid flavors would lead to increases in combustible cigarette use and simultaneously lead to reductions in e-cigarette use. As such, any proposals through the COP process to further restrict access to flavoured vaping products would without doubt lead to an increase in people smoking combustible cigarettes.

4.WHO bans the use of tobacco harm reduction tools, moving away from FCTC objectives.

According to the latest Global State of Tobacco Harm reduction (GSTHR) report(GSTHR, Burning Issues 2020) almost 100 million people are now using a range of vaping products and they do not use combustible cigarettes at all. The evidence provided by this report shows the effect of harm reduction products such as e-cigarettes on the global decline in cigarette consumption per adult.

On the contrary WHO in its latest report from their expert committee on Tobacco Product Regulation, released December 23rd, recommended to ban and prohibit e-cigarettes and heated tobacco products (WHO Expert Committee Meeting Report, Dec 23, 2020). This recommendation conflicts with the FCTC protocol to Eliminate Illicit Trade in Tobacco Products that aimed at eliminating all forms of illicit trade in the tobacco environment. The banning of vaping products would lead the smokers to purchase their e-cigarettes from illicit markets or from jurisdictions where they are legal. Public health may be damaged with a sharp rise in smuggling and sale of illegal e-cigarettes. Illicit trade of e-cigarettes is a mounting problem across the globe that hurts economies and also may be used to fund terrorist and similar criminal enterprises. Furthermore, it ignores the scientific evidence provided indicating the power of vaping products to increase quit rates more effectively or to modify behaviors associated with combustible cigarettes.

Despite the fact that the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) aims to reduce harmful tobacco consumption, there have only been a few attempts to empirically evaluate the impact of this international treaty. Unfortunately, there is no empirical interventional study to evaluate the effectiveness of the decision to adopt a tobacco control treaty as a strategy for reducing global cigarette consumption. Analysis of tobacco consumption trends is necessary to discern patterns for future tobacco control policies including the different priorities of each country’s strategy. No internationally comparable data on tobacco consumption are available for analysis by quasi-experiment. An interdisciplinary and international collaboration is necessary under the WHO, setting down standards for research and assessing risk and benefits.

Among FCTC’s mandates was the investigation of novel tobacco products. The FCTC is not a good forum for encouraging new ideas. The investigation by FCTC apparently is limited to strict regulations of tobacco products that often referred to the products as a “serious barrier to progress”.There is a persistent problem with the WHO relying on poor evidence or the motivated reasoning of activists. The WHO Executive Board 146th session meeting (February 2020) called for countries to ban or restrict the use of e-cigarettes and novel and emerging tobacco products. FCTC has examined a limited amount of scientific evidence and, by their own admission, “international scientific consensus was not yet reached”on the existing health effects.

WHO should take a fresh look at the function of e-cigarettes as a harm reduction tool and accept the progress that the tobacco industry has made in developing products that are able to significantly reduce smoking. Science should come first in every health issue or situation. The pandemic crisis confirmed this statement. Policies of WHO, including plain packaging and banning of vaping products, damage Intellectual Property Rights and innovation. States can protect public health without damaging private property right protections and security of innovation. Tobacco control should be a social, public health, and quality-of-life concern rather than a business and trade issue.

5. Intellectual Property Rights are significant for the innovative harm-reducing products.

E-cigarettes became possible only due to strong intellectual property rights in a competitive open market. Intellectual property rights connect innovators with consumers’ demand for harm-reducing products. States can protect public health without compromising the protection of private property rights and market-driven innovation. The effective protection of intellectual and property rights is essential and can promote investment in the market.

When a ban in tobacco products is introduced, the right to property (Article 1, First Protocol to the European Convention on Human Rights) is weighed against the legitimate interest of public health. The rationale for the health function of banning vaping products contradicts the overwhelming evidence on e-cigarettes as the most successful quit aid. It is a discriminatory measure for consumers, who are denied the access to products with reduced risk. It may support some fundamental rights including the right to health and a clean environment, but it unduly violates the right to liberty, property and equality. Practices like these, discourage investment and put businesses at risk of losing their competitive edge. Policies that undermine innovation often have unintended consequences, and Property Rights Alliance opposes all measures that have irreparable harm to intellectual property.

6. Conclusion

The initial intention of the COP process was to reduce tobacco dependency and the associated mortality caused by the smoking of conventional tobacco products. In actively opposing the opportunities presented by newer reduced-risk tobacco alternatives such as e-cigarettes, the World Health Organization is now actively working against its stated mission. It is furthermore deeply troubling that independent scientific experts remain excluded from the COP9 process, and the complete lack of transparency and consultation violate every norm of sound public policy.

As a result of the WHO pursing a policy agenda that is contrary to science, the UK faces significant threats that its successful harm reduction model may be undermined, and access to life-saving products may be restricted. As such, unless the UK and like-minded pro-science governments are able to achieve serious structural reform in the WHO, the UK needs to re-evaluate its participation in the FCTC.

Originally published here.

Brusel ide do vojny proti rakovine. Cigarety a alkohol výrazne zdražejú

Európska únia chce zatočiť s rakovinou. Komisia by dnes mala predstaviť plán, ako znížiť túto zákernú chorobu na minimum. Aj keď materiál ešte nebol oficiálne zverejnený, jeho časti už unikli.

Ako uviedol portál politico.eu, Brusel chce do roku 2040 zapracovať na tom, aby vznikla takzvaná beztabaková generácia.

To by malo v praxi znamenať, že počet fajčiarov by mal poklesnúť pod 5 percent z celkovej populácie. V súčasnosti je tento podiel u nás približne na úrovni 20 percent.

Originally published here.

Vaping is the gateway out of smoking

Recent trends framing e-cigarettes as a gateway to smoking do not stand up to scrutiny, write the Consumer Choice Center’s Maria Chaplia and World Vapers’ Alliance’s Michael Landl.

The innovative nature of vaping has contributed to its success and allowed it to quickly gain popularity among smokers. At the same time, because it is a novel technology, it has also been met with suspicion across the world – especially in the European Union.

Aside from targeting the harm-reduction nature of vaping, some of the recent criticism has also sought to frame vaping as a gateway to conventional smoking. However, that couldn’t be farther from the truth, and the longer the European Union continues to demonise vaping, the fewer smokers get a chance to switch to a safer and healthier alternative. We know enough about vaping to endorse it at EU level.

The newest Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) UK report states that “only 0.3 percent of never-smokers are current vapers (amounting to 2.9 percent of vapers)”. Therefore, a gateway effect to smoking is not reflected in the data and many studies show the opposite effect. For example, smoking rates in the UK – where public health authorities encourage vaping as a gateway out of smoking – are at an all-time low and there is no sign of vaping causing more smoking.

Moreover, countries that adopt harm reduction policies see better results in reducing smoking compared to more restrictive countries. One of the latter examples is Australia, which is very hostile to vaping. This hostility has consequences: the rate of decline of smoking rates is much slower compared to the United States or the UK which are more vaping friendly countries. Since 2013 when vaping became popular, the adult smoking rates have reduced significantly. In the UK, approximately 25 percent fewer people smoke today compared to 2013, while  the US has seen a 24 percent reduction. For the same period, Australia saw a decline of only 8 percent.

“Recent trends framing e-cigarettes as a gateway to smoking do not stand up to scrutiny. E-cigarettes are a gateway out of smoking”

The correlation between the introduction and the popularity of vaping and declining smoking rates suggests that vaping is an important innovation to help people quit smoking. The 2018 US National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine Report found that the smoking rate has decreased overall more rapidly since vaping became more prominent in the United States.

The landmark report on vaping’s potential to save lives was commissioned by Public Health England in 2015, providing evidence that vaping is 95 percent less harmful than combustible tobacco and has thus become a recommended means of quitting for smokers in the United Kingdom. FranceCanada and New Zealand followed their lead.

It is important to keep in mind that demand for cigarettes per se is inelastic, and measures such as advertising bans, plain packaging, and taxes have not proved to be effective in reducing smoking rates. Vaping, on the contrary, serves as a viable alternative that provides smokers with an opportunity to reduce health-associated risks and eventually quit smoking.

The effectiveness of e-cigarettes as a smoking cessation tool is undeniable as it targets smokers as opposed to non-smokers. Recent trends framing e-cigarettes as a gateway to smoking do not stand up to scrutiny. E-cigarettes are a gateway out of smoking. Anti-vaping measures are disastrous and detrimental to the health of smokers for whom vaping has become a life-saving tool. Policymakers must reconsider their approach to vaping. Despite many voices seeking to undermine vaping as a gateway out of smoking, the evidence is sound: vaping saves lives.

Originally published here.

EU crackdown on vaping is bad news for public health

The Beating Cancer Plan will make vaping harder.

The leaked Commission proposal for the EU’s Beating Cancer Plan has revealed the bloc’s plans to make harm reducing products such as vaping devices harder to access and consume in the European Union. Under this proposal, the EU would hike taxation rules on vaping products to match those of conventional cigarettes, treating those products as equivalent threats to human health.

This ignores existing public health research. As Public Health England has confirmed, vaping is 95% safer than conventional tobacco. Adding to that, vaping has consistently been shown to be an effective method of fuelling smoking cessation, i.e. helping those smokers who choose to quit, to do so. With such an innovation, the EU should rejoice in the existence of tobacco alternatives that offer a solution —- something policy-makers have not managed to achieve through brute policy for decades.

Increasing taxation levels will increase the price of vaping products, and give many smokers yet another reason not to quit, which would be terrible news for public health. In many EU member states, cigarette prices are at such high levels that they have already fueled the rise of black-market producers. A blanket tax hike can, therefore, produce one of two results: either it will fuel an equally sizable black market for vaping (which is currently a more economical solution for consumers than cigarettes in many countries), or it will lead many vapers returning to the more harmful option of smoking.

Another suggestion made by the European Commission is the phasing-out and eventual restriction of vape flavours. Vaping devices are known for their fancy flavour options, from traditional fruit flavours to more extravagant ones. Smokers switch to vaping precisely because of these flavour options. Phasing them out would reduce that incentive. 

Well-intended policy-makers believe this proposal would prevent teens from using these products. But vaping is, and remains, something that should only be used by informed adults. There may be examples of underaged people who have acquired vape devices and liquids, but this is far from the fault of responsible adult users and law-abiding retailers. Governments should impose harsher fines on retailers and other individuals who facilitate the sale of vapes to minors, yet recognise that vaping represents a real opportunity for adult users.

The Commission is also proposing to restrict vaping in public areas, similar to cigarettes. Here again, we should appeal to the common sense of vapers to behave responsibly and respectfully in public places, without needing to equate vaping with smoking. And without encroaching on member state jurisdiction. 

Creating more hurdles for smokers to switch to innovative vaping solutions is a step in the wrong direction — this EU proposal would actively destroy much of the healthier transition that former smokers have made in the last years.

Hopefully, the European Parliament will take a more nuanced point of view. Some parliamentarians have expressed the will to include vaping as a smoking cessation tool in the final proposal, and experts testifying in EP committees have underlined that this is based on scientific evidence. The Parliament now needs to put its foot down, and strongly oppose the Commission narrative on vaping.

Governments have tried for decades to get people off smoking and have had limited impact. The true innovations have arisen from market solutions like vaping.  Why not allow innovative solutions to be explored and endorsed, especially when government scientific agencies are confirming their safety? If it’s really about beating cancer, then let’s do it together, not against the science.

Originally published here.

Apakah Melarang Vape pada Masa Pandemi Merupakan Kebijakan yang Tepat?

Pandemi COVID-19 hingga saat ini masih menjadi permasalahan besar yang harus dihadapi oleh berbagai negara di seluruh dunia. Salah satu dampak dari hal tersebut adalah, perayaan tahun baru 2021 kemarin terasa sangat berbeda di berbagai kota-kota besar di banyak negara.

Tidak ada perayaan besar-besaran, pesta meriah, hingga kembang api yang mewarnai langit malam. Jutaan orang di seluruh dunia terpaksa harus tinggal di kediaman mereka, atau merayakan tahun baru di tempat yang tertutup, bersama orang-orang dekat mereka dalam jumlah yang kecil.

Untuk itu, penanganan dan pengentasan pandemi COVID-19, yang sudah memakan korban jiwa hingga lebih dari 2 juta orang di seluruh dunia, menjadi prioritas utama banyak pemerintahan di dunia. Berbagai pemerintahan di seluruh dunia mengambil berbagai langkah yang dianggap mampu untuk memitigasi dampak virus yang penyebarannya sangat mudah tersebut.Beragam kebijakan dilakukan oleh banyak pemerintahan di seluruh dunia untuk mengatasi dan memitigasi pandemi tersebut. Beberpaa kebijakan yang umum diambil oleh berbagai pemerintahan di dunia diantaranya adalah lockdown nasional untuk menutup seluruh fasilitas umum, sarana pendidikan, dan gedung perkantoran, menutup perbatasan, dan mewajibkan seluruh warga yang keluar rumah untuk mengenakan masker.

Selain itu, lockdown, menutup perbatasan, dan mewajibkan semua orang menggunakan masker bukan hanya kebijakan yang diambil oleh berbagai pemerintahan di dunia untuk memitigasi dampak dari pandemi COVID-19. Kebijakan lain yang juga dilakukan adalah melarang berbagai produk yang dianggap berpotensi meningkatkan dampak dari pandemi COVID-19. Salah produk yang menjadi sasaran dari kebijakan tersebut adalah rokok elektronik tertentu, yang juga dikenal dengan nama vape.

Di Amerika Serikat misalnya, pelarangan vape sebagai untuk memitigasi pandemi COVID-19 merupakan kebijakan yang dilakukan oleh beberapa pemerintahan di negara bagian dan juga kota memberlakukan pelarangan terhadap vape berperasa (salud-america.org, 18/09/2020). Lantas, apakah kebijakan tersebut merupakan sesuatu yang tepat? Berdasarkan penelitian yang dilakukan oleh berbagai lembaga kesehatan di seluruh dunia, rokok elektronik, atau vape, merupakan produk yang jauh lebih aman daripada rokok elektronik yang dibakar. Hasil penelitian yang dilakukan oleh lembaga kesehatan Pemerintah Inggris misalnya, Public Health England, menunjukkan bahwa vape atau rokok elektronik jauh lebih aman 95% dari rokok konvensional yang dibakar (Public Health England, 19/07/2015).

Tidak hanya itu, vape atau rokok elektronik juga terbukti dapat membantu jutaan perokok untuk berhenti merokok. Lembaga kesehatan Inggris, National Health Service misalnya, menyatakan bahwa rokok elektronik atau vape merupakan produk yang efektif untuk membantu seseorang berhenti dari kebiasaan merokoknya (National Health Service, 29/03/2019).

Hal ini tentu merupakan hal yang sangat positif. Adanya produk yang jauh lebih aman, yang dapat membantu seorang perokok untuk menghentikan kebiasaan merokoknya tentu adalah hal yang harus kita dukung dan apresiasi. Selain itu, pihak yang paling dirugikan apabila pelarangan vape diberlakukan adalah para perokok, di mana mereka tidak lagi bisa mendapatkan akses terhadap produk yang dapat membantu mereka berhenti merokok. Kebijakan tersebut membuat lebih banyak keburukan daripada manfaat (reason.org, 22/06/2020).

Selain itu, dampak unintended consequences yang dapat terjadi bila kebijakan tersebut diberlakukan adalah, bila vape dilarang, maka akan lebih banyak produk-produk vape ilegal yang sangat berbahaya bagi konsumen, karena tidak melalui proses regulasi oleh pemerintah. Hal ini tentu merupakan sesuatu yang sangat berbahaya. Bila produk ilegal vape membanjiri pasar, terlebih lagi pada masa pandemi seperti sekarang, maka akan lebih banyak orang-orang sakit, dan rumah sakit serta sarana kesehatan akan semakin sulit menampung mereka, karena sudah dipenuhi oleh para pasien COVID-19 (Newsday.com, 04/05/2020).

Dampak dari beredarnya vape ilegal terhadap kesehatan publik bukan sesuatu yang dapat kita abaikan begitu saja, dan sudah pernah terjadi di beberapa tempat, salah satunya di Amerika Serikat. Di negeri Paman Sam, pada tahun 2019, terjadi kasus orang-orang yang terkena penyakit dan gangguan pernafasan yang disebabkan oleh konsumsi produk-produk vape ilegal. Setidaknya ada 35 orang yang meninggal disebabkan karena konsumsi produk ilegal tersebut (The Washington Post, 26/10/2019).

Sebagai penutup, kebijakan pelarangan vape, apalagi di masa pandemi COVID-19, adalah sesuatu yang berbahaya. Kebijakan ini bukan hanya akan menghilangkan kesempatan bagi jutaan perokok untuk mengakses produk-produk yang dapat membantu mereka berhenti merokok, namun juga berpotensi akan meningkatkan produk-produk vape ilegal yang berbahaya bagi konsumen, yang akan semakin memberatkan sarana kesehatan yang sudah dibebani oleh banyaknya pasien COVID-19.

Originally published here.

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.

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.

Ignore company sob stories and raise tobacco tax, Putrajaya told

PETALING JAYA: A former health ministry official has urged the government to start increasing tobacco taxes again, saying it is the most effective way to discourage smoking.

Tobacco control expert Dr Zarihah Mohd Zain, who helped draw up smoking regulations in Malaysia, urged the government to increase the tax five-fold.

She said the government should ignore the “sob stories” of cigarette-makers. The companies had fooled the government into not increasing the tobacco tax for the past five years, in order to counter the sale of cheaper, smuggled cigarettes, she said.

“If we start increasing the tax again, it would lead to higher prices of tobacco products, a good way to reduce demand for smokers,” she told FMT.

“For the last five years that the government did not increase the tax, did it manage to solve the smuggling problem? Not at all,” she said. “In fact, that is just how the tobacco industry fooled the government.”

Zarihah said she believed the main cause of black market cigarettes was corruption among enforcement officers who allowed the illegal products to enter the country.

She said the government should simultaneously end the sale of duty-free cigarettes and start investigating enforcement officers for corruption.

Zarihah said that although the tobacco industry generates revenue for the country, the government is also burdened to cover the cost of smoking cessation programmes. “It is just not worth it. The government needs to realise that this industry is a revenue drainer for Malaysia,” she said.

Health minister Dr Adham Baba told the Dewan Rakyat yesterday that the government may consider using cigarette and tobacco duties to fund anti-smoking programmes. He said there were an estimated 4.8 million smokers in the country, amounting to 21% of the population.

The Federation of Malaysian Consumers Associations has welcomed higher tobacco taxes to cover healthcare costs as practised elsewhere and recommended by the World Health Organization.

“Tax collected should be used to provide smoking cessation programmes. Mortality and sickness due to tobacco smoke is a drain on healthcare cost and national productivity,”said Fomca tobacco control co-ordinator Muhammad Sha’ani Abdullah.

In July this year, a global consumer advocacy group Consumer Choice Centre warned that the sale and purchase of smuggled cigarettes — which can cost only a third of the price of the legal stuff — will continue to grow barring changes to local tobacco taxes.

CCC said black market cigarettes had captured 60% of the market, catering to an estimated 5 million smokers in Malaysia.

A total of 22,000 smokers had been treated under the smoking cessation programme so far, and the government spent RM2.8 million on the programme last year alone.

Originally published here.

To beat cancer in Europe, let’s give vaping a chance

The European Union’s Beating Cancer plan is our once-in-a-generation opportunity to tackle cancer by embracing innovation and consumer choice.

By following the footsteps of the UK, France, Australia, and New Zealand, we can further achieve our goals by endorsing vaping as a harm reduction tool with incredible potential to help reduce health-associated risks. By doing so, the EU could ensure a better future for smokers.

It has been stressed many times that vaping has been proven to be 95% less harmful than smoking. And yet, despite the sound evidence at hand, anti-vaping rhetoric persists and continues to win the hearts and minds of European policymakers. However, in order to develop the most efficient and effective policies to tackle cancer, it is crucial to stay open-minded, and we should always be led by science over ideology.

Smoking-induced cancer takes nearly 700,000 lives every year in the EU, and various marketing schemes and branding restrictions haven’t succeeded in reducing these numbers. When conventional methods don’t work, innovation in the form of vaping must be embraced.

Unlike traditional cigarettes that create more than 7,000 chemicals when burned, 69 of which have been identified as potential carcinogens, vape liquids’ compounds are common food ingredients deemed safe and not harmful by regulatory bodies including the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). Moreover, when compared to other alternatives in getting people to quit, including Nicotine Replace Therapy (NRT) patches and drugs, vaping has been found to be twice as effective.  

Vaping has the potential to drive down smoking-induced cancer rates significantly. The cancer risk of vaping relative to smoking is 0.4% according to a study conducted by the University of St. Andrews. The additional lifetime cancer risk for an e-cigarette user is 0,0095% compared to 2,4% of a smoker found by the same study. At present,t the European Union has 140 million smokers and many of them struggle to quit. Therefore, we need every possible method available to them to make quitting easier. We must expand their choices.

Consumer choice is more than an empty economic term: it is an essential part of our individual pursuit of what we perceive to be best for us, and the ability to do so voluntarily. The Europe Beating Cancer plan is a chance for Europe to inform smokers about vaping and how it can assist them in their efforts to quit. Another important part of the plan should be to actively encourage smokers to switch to vaping and guarantee access to vaping products for adults. 

Since it is impossible to change consumers’ smoking behaviour with a stick – not least because it is inhumane to disregard our freedom to choose – we need to go with encouragement and correct information as our main strategy. 

Creating and sustaining conditions under which adult smokers are able to switch to healthier options such as e-cigarettes is not only a forward-looking solution but also the one that would demonstrate the European Commission’s commitment to tackling cancer without undermining consumer choice. Europe’s Beating Cancer plan should become not just a policy roadmap, but also manifest Europe’s openness to innovation and recognition of freedom as the highest value. Smokers and future generations would be eternally grateful.

Originally published here.

Vape shop operators: A tax on our products amid Covid-19 pandemic will kill business

KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 27 ― The vape culture in Malaysia has seen tremendous growth since its introduction here about nine years ago. It has been reported that the value of the vaping market here is estimated at RM2 billion.

An estimated one million people smoke e-cigarettes or vapes in Malaysia and most rely on their neighbourhood vape shop for their “juice” or vape liquids. There are a myriad of choices of brands and flavours as Malaysia is one of the leading producers of vape liquids worldwide.

Finance Minister Datuk Seri Tengku Zafrul Abdul Aziz, in his maiden Budget speech on November 6, proposed imposing excise duty on electronic, non-electronic cigarette devices and vape liquids beginning January 2021.

He said the government will impose excise duty at a rate of 10 per cent on all types of electronic and non-electronic cigarette devices, as well as 40 sen per ml (millimetre) when it comes to the sale of vape liquids. 

Malay Mail spoke to several e-cigarette and vape shop operators to find out what they think about this new vape tax. The consensus seems to be that the timing is wrong as everybody is still reeling from the devastating economic effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.

They suggested that the government postpone the imposition of the tax to a later date.

Mohd Hiekal bin Rosli, owner of Molek Vape Store on Jalan Ipoh, said that while he welcomes the tax as it will help regulate the industry, the government skipped a few steps when tabling this ruling.

“An Act should be put in place first and they should streamline the issuing of licences for vapes and all its related products. Right now, the health ministry doesn’t even issue licenses.

“How can you impose tax for something that people cannot get a licence to sell in the first place?” he questioned.

All nicotine products fall under the purview of the Poisons Act 1952, and no licence has been issued by the health ministry for vaping products in the country.

Hiekal added that while the 10 per cent excise duty on e-cigarettes and vaping devices is fair, the 40 sen per ml on vape liquids is a bit much, sharing that the price hike after the tax for liquids would be a deterrent.

“Forty sen per ml is actually quite high. Most vape juices I sell come either in 10ml, 30ml or 60ml boxes; imagine one 60ml bottle costs an average RM40, and at 40 sen per ml, that brings the total price to an additional RM24 on top of the price of the juice itself.

“We are afraid that the tax may chase away what remains of my customers ― some who face rough conditions because of the economy right now during Covid-19. Push it back until the coast is clear, then implement it by all means,” he said.

Although Hiekal thinks the 40 sen per ml tax on vape liquids is quite high, checks on a similar tax on vape liquids in other countries shows this is actually quite low.

At the corner of Jalan Raja Abdullah and Jalan Raja Muda Musa in Kampung Baru is Puppetborn Vape Store. Run by 25-year-old Lokman Hakim bin Mohd Yusof, this little vape store supplies Kampung Baru and its close neighbours with their e-cigarette and vaping needs.

Lokman shared that vaping is a lifestyle, just like smoking. And like cigarettes, no matter how high the tax, there will always be a demand.

“A lot of my customers switched over to vapes because one, it’s healthier than smoking cigarettes, and two, it’s cheaper! What’s going to stop those who switched from cigarettes to vapes to switch back, because it’s going to be almost the same price!,” he exclaimed as two of his customers nearby chuckled on hearing the dismay in his voice.

He added that while he agrees the implementation of a tax is a good thing for the country’s economy, the government should consider waiting until after the Covid-19 pandemic is over to impose the tax.

“Right now, I still have demand for vapes and its products but I know if they implement it before Covid-19 is over, we’re going to have a hard time surviving. Those big chains will nonetheless survive, but us small shops who serve a small neighbourhood… we won’t,” he added.

Amir Abdulah, store manager of NCiG’s flagship store in Desa Sri Hartamas, said that the company’s vision of helping people quit cigarettes may be impaired as the taxes may drive away customers.

“Here at NCiG, our motto is to improve the quality of life for smokers and their families by putting an end to cigarette addiction forever, by encouraging the use of e-cigarettes which have less toxins and chemicals compared to cigarettes, and are less harmful overall.

“The implementation of the tax may chase away some of our clients who have been trying to live a healthier life,”he shared.

Amir fears the implementation of the tax will just push people back to smoking cigarettes, as the pricing will be almost equivalent.

A 2020 report by an American advocacy group, the Consumer Choice Center, recently debunked the common belief that “vaping is the gateway to smoking for adults and adolescents” but instead is designed to offer smokers a safer way to consume nicotine and divert them from traditional and harmful tobacco consumption.

Amir added that he fears that it is too soon for such a tax as most operators are barely hanging on due to the devastating effects of the pandemic, and that the market needs more time to recover first.

“We need time to recover, we were closed for a month before this because of Covid-19, and have yet to recover from that lost time,” he said.

Originally published here.

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