After reading this article earlier this month, I tweeted in support of Dutch Health Minister, Edith Schippers, for her liberal approach to nicotine delivery. To boil it down, it appeared that she recognised the fact that it is a personal decision to quit smoking; that it can only be achieved if an individual wants to do so; that government shouldn't be spending precious funds on bullying people; and that the pharma industry is quite capable of weaning smokers away from cigarettes with their own cash if they want to reap the profits.
Sadly, it seems she may have given with one hand, while offering a sop to disgruntled pharma companies with the other. This document, when translated, reveals that the Dutch government have just all but prohibited e-cigs.
According to my Dutch-speaking friend, this means:
What they actually say is that the e-cig will be considered as a drug (compared with patches and gum). This will mean that it needs a license from the Dutch FDA and trade over internet or ads are not allowed until the license is given.Now, the e-cig industry - although growing at a crackling rate - is still in its infancy, so licensing is a massive hurdle to overcome for the relatively small companies who are marketing the devices.
Until now, it was temporarily assigned the drug status without being enforced. So it'll not be banned but will have the same status as nicotine patches and gum.
It has been estimated that to comply with the regulations and allow just one line to be approved under drug licensing requirements would cost over a quarter of a million quid. If any alterations are made, or a new design introduced, the process (and compliance costs) all starts again.
The alternative would be - as other jurisdictions have done - to class e-cigs as a recreational (tobacco) product, with lighter regulation. The upshot being that those who find quitting easy with an e-cig are able to do so with enjoyment of nicotine being a feature, not a bug.
Of course, that doesn't sit well with manufacturers of patches and gum, just as they thought they were cornering the market after decades of
The Dutch Health Department's action has the potential for killing the Dutch e-cig industry overnight and leaving 'vapers' with the option of resorting to pharma products, or going back to tobacco.
Why does this not reek of tobacco company involvement, I hear you ask? Well, because it's not been the tobacco industry making shrill noises all over the world to have e-cigs banned. In fact, quite the opposite.
Philip Morris have purchased patents for similar delivery systems, while British American Tobacco have done the same over here. The latter crucially relies on such technology being deemed as a tobacco product, and not a pharmaceutical one, which is why it was Martin Dockrell of ASH spitting feathers about the idea.
The fact that ‘Big Tobacco’ is launching a ‘healthy’ cigarette (and has caught the attention of Tesco’s highly successful former chief executive Terry Leahy, who is investing in the venture) will dismay many people in the health lobby.Gotta keep the sponsors happy, haven't you, Martin?
‘This is a cynical move to design a product to keep you smoking,’ is the view taken by Martin Dockrell, director of research and policy at Action On Smoking And Health (ASH)
Dutch smokers who are suspicious of e-cigs (I presume there will be some with that view just as there are over here) would seem to benefit from this policy. They get some relief from the incessant lecturing, while pharma gets a consolation prize of new business from vapers who are keen not to go back to smoking 'analogues'. However, it's an empty victory if others have to suffer as a result, especially since the justification for the ban is still one of a difference between nicotine for fun, and nicotine as a purely functional - and short term - route to government-approved purity.
In other words, it's only a reprieve. It won't stop the drive for sole use of pharmaceutical nicotine, and anyone who thinks 'sod vapers, what do I care?' has very quickly forgotten their own predicament after being abandoned by users of other frowned-upon products.
We thought Holland had shed the shackles of pharma lobbying and intimidation - for the arguable good of their countrymen - but this latest development shows that there's still quite a bit of weak-willed apprehension at play.
Come on, Edith, you can do better than this.
H/T Steve K