Monthly Archives: Mar 2013

Urgent ECON hearing with Dijsselbloem called for by ALDE Group

The President of the ALDE Group Guy Verhofstadt and Sylvie Goulard, ALDE Coordinator on the ECON committee has called for a urgent meeting of the ECON committee in order to hear Mr Dijsselbloem.

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Letter to the Yorkshire Post: EU investment in University research

Rebecca Taylor and Edward McMillan-Scott sent the following letter to the Yorkshire Post.     As EU budgets make the headlines again, last week we, and our fellow Liberal Democrat Euros MPs, demanded more investment from the EU in research …

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Lib Dem MEPs Lobby For Fair Distribution Of Funding

 As negotiations continue on the EU budget from 2014 onwards, the regions Liberal Democrat MEPs Edward McMillan-Scott and Rebecca Taylor have been battling hard to make sure Yorkshire and the Humber is not disproportionally affected over its southern counter-parts by …

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EU SPENDING PRIORITY MUST BE LOCAL PROJECTS NOT PENCILS IN PARLIAMENT SAY MEPs

Liberal Democrat MEPs, Edward McMillan-Scott and Rebecca Taylor, have called for the European Parliament to cut administration costs and boost investment in jobs and growth in the Yorkshire & Humber region.   As negotiations continue on the EU budget Edward …

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ALDE MEPs call for an investigation into serious health concerns over the aspartame

On Wednesday March 27th, 2013, ALDE MEPs Corinne Lepage (CAP 21, France), Andrea Zanoni (IT) and Antonyia Parvanova (NMSP, Bulgaria) are hosting a conference in the European Parliament on the issue of full re-evaluation of aspartame and a…

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ALDE confident that an EU/Japan Free Trade Agreement will be reached

ALDE welcomes the European Commission’s announcement today of the opening of large-scale trade negotiations between the EU and Japan.

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Boosting Europe’s attractiveness for foreign talent

The European Commission today presented a new Directive to improve EU attractiveness and accessibility for foreign researchers and talents.

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Verhofstadt on Cyprus: European Commission has to speed up legislative proposals on European resolution fund and deposit guarantee scheme

Guy Verhofstadt, President of the ALDE Group in the European Parliament, takes note of the agreement reached last night between the Cypriot Government and the Eurogroup, in particular of the fact that ordinary deposits under 100 thousand…

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EU wastes another opportunity on Syria

EU countries have wasted another opportunity to stop Bashar al-Assad’s killing machine, Guy Verhofstadt said on Saturday following inconclusive talks on the Syria arms embargo by EU foreign ministers in Dublin.

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How should the EU regulate e-cigarettes?

Background: revision of the tobacco directive

The European Parliament is currently examining the proposed revision of the EU tobacco products directive. The tobacco directive regulates many aspects of how tobacco products can be marketed and sold including ingredients, packaging, labelling, health warnings, pricing, advertising and promotion. 

The aim of the legislation is to make tobacco products unattractive and inform users as much as possible of the health dangers of tobacco, in recognition that these products are so bad for health that they kill hundreds of thousands of Europeans every year. 

In public health terms, tobacco control policies are highly successful and have resulted in falling levels of smoking across Europe and the world:

http://www.ash.org.uk/files/documents/ASH_743.pdf

http://www.bvsde.paho.org/bvsacd/cd51/tobacco-past/cap4.pdf


http://old.ensp.org/files/effectivefinal2.pdf

http://tobaccocontrol.bmj.com/


For more information on the proposal, please see: http://ec.europa.eu/health/tobacco/products/revision/index_en.htm

As a member of the ENVI (environment, public health and food safety) committee 
 with a strong interest in public health, I am following discussions on the directive closely, although I do not have any official role (my Belgian Liberal colleague Frédérique Ries is the MEP responsible in the Liberal group). 

However, I am following the proposal for the Liberal group in the Legal Affairs committee, which will naturally examine the legal soundness and clarity of the proposal rather than the public health aspects. 


Electronic cigarettes

During the last few years, we have seen the arrival of electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) on the market in various European countries. For those who do not know, e-cigarettes are devices that resemble a cigarette or a pen and enable the user to inhale nicotine containing vapour. Some e-cigarette users call their habit “vaping”. 

Supporters of e-cigarettes say that provide a less harmful alternative to tobacco for smokers unable to quit. E-cigarettes contain only nicotine, the addictive component of tobacco, and do not contain the many other components of tobacco including those which are carcinogenic (cancer causing). 

Public health organisations such as Action on Smoking and Health (ASH), the UK anti-smoking charity agree that e-cigarettes can be a harm reduction tool for smokers who want to quit but have not managed to do so. 

The UK National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) will also look at e-cigarettes in its next review of smoking cessation guidelines. 

The regulation question
 
As e-cigarettes are new products, they are currently only very loosely regulated under general consumer products legislation, which does not take into account their rather specific nature. The European Commission (EU civil service) therefore included proposals to better regulate e-cigarettes in the revision of the tobacco directive. 

What is currently proposed in the tobacco directive would require e-cigarettes containing a nicotine concentration of more than than 4mg per ml to fall under the pharmaceutical legislation that covers nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) products such as nicotine patches and chewing gum. This would mean e-cigarette companies having to submit marketing authorisation applications to the European Medicines Agency.

E-cigarettes contain on average a nicotine concentration of around 18mg/ml, with some products going up to 20mg/ml. That means most e-cigarettes would under the current proposed regulatory regime fall under the scope of EU pharmaceutical legislation. 

One solution could be that e-cigarettes producers lower the nicotine levels in their products  so they are 4mg/ml or less. However, e-cigarette companies and consumers say that this level of nicotine is too low to satisfy the nicotine cravings of ex-smokers who have switched to e-cigarettes and could lead to them returning to tobacco. 

Considerations for the regulation of e-cigarettes

It seems to me that maintaining the status quo is not an option, but I am not yet convinced 
that requiring e-cigarettes to get a pharmaceutical marketing authorisation is the way to go
either. 

I believe it is necessary to develop a regulatory regime specifically designed for e-cigarettes that will achieve the delicate balance of keeping the products available for existing users who are ex-smokers, while not making the products attractive to new users who do not smoke, especially young people. Very difficult!

I am not sure how best this can be done, but I would suggest that the following needs to be taken into consideration:

  • While it is clear that e-cigarettes are far less harmful than tobacco, nicotine does have some negative health effects, but the long term health impacts of using e-cigarettes are currently unknown;
  • Expanding on the previous point, it may be appropriate to require e-cigarettes to come with a general health warning such as “may damage your health” until evidence is available to make a more precise warning;
  • There are currently no standards in relation to the quality and safety of e-cigarettes, something which needs to be rectified for reasons of consumer protection;
  • The aim of regulation should be to keep e-cigarettes available as a harm reduction tool for adult smokers, while taking every precaution to ensure their use does not “renormalise” smoking and that they are not marketed in a way that broadens their appeal to non-smokers, especially young people. In order to guarantee this, it may be necessary to subject e-cigarettes to marketing restrictions such as minimum age of purchase requirements, forbidding free samples or below cost pricing, a ban on characterising flavours (e.g. chocolate) and advertising restrictions such as prohibiting billboards near schools, daytime TV adverts and adverts in magazines, websites aimed at or read by young people. 

  • Following on from the previous point, e-cigarettes used in public places where smoking is forbidden or in front of children would also contribute to “renormalisation”, so steps should be taken to avoid this, for example restricting the use of e-cigarettes in public places. 

One other point worth mentioning is that whatever regulation is eventually put in place for e-cigarettes, there will be a transition period of several years before it comes into force. This would mean that the e-cigarette industry would have a number of years to comply with the legislation, so there would be no danger of the products disappearing overnight and existing e-cigarette users being left high and dry.

This is indeed a complex issue, with many different viewpoints. I am open to comments and suggestions. 



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