Egged on two years ago, I am sorry to say, by British ministers (incompetent ones, Matt - DP) and some MEPs (including compromised ones, Matt - DP), the EU has agreed a tobacco products directive, which has to be implemented into law by next spring. Its Article 20 concerns the regulation of devices for vaping nicotine. And it hits them much harder than it hits cigarettes.
For a start, it is bizarre to include vaping devices in a “tobacco products” directive at all. It’s like regulating coffee in a hard-drugs law. Remember the evidence is now overwhelmingly strong — and the British government has recently, but belatedly accepted this — that vaping is a really effective way to quit smoking and that, far from being a gateway into smoking, it is a highway out. By some estimates, approaching three million people now vape in this country, nearly all of whom are smoking less or no tobacco as a result.
Gobsmackingly, the directive specifically outlaws the very vaping devices that are most useful to heavy smokers trying to quit: the ones with more than 20 milligrams of nicotine per millilitre. Heavy smokers need high-strength nicotine vapour to quit smoking, so the people with the worst health are going to be denied help. And by insisting that refillable devices are leak free, the directive will effectively kill 90 per cent of the devices sold by independent firms and hand the market back to the struggling non-refillable “cig-alike” ones made mostly by the tobacco firms.
It gets worse. The directive outlaws most vaping advertisements, which will certainly slow vaping’s advance at the expense of smoking — ie, cost lives. It creates a six-month “standstill” period for new vaping products, following notification by the manufacture of an intention to sell a product. This will slow innovation and is asking for a black market to thrive: Chinese websites will be selling new devices into Europe while regulated manufacturers here twiddle their thumbs for 26 weeks.
But all of this pales into insignificance beside the truly shocking idiocy in the directive, which is this. From next spring a manufacturer of a vaping device will have to submit far more information about its emissions than a tobacco company will have to submit about emissions from smoking devices.
Under the new directive, e-cig makers are going to have to measure and list “all ingredients contained in, and emissions resulting from the use of, the product, by brand name and type” — including toxicological data — even though these emissions are far lower and far less toxic than tobacco smoke. Remember, the best evidence suggests that vaping is 20-100 times safer than smoking. But here we have regulation falling far more heavily on the safer product
The result will be a slowdown in the take-up of vaping and therefore more premature deaths from smokingNow, the Tobacco Products Directive (TPD) is a dire piece of legislation in its entirety, but Article 20 is quite simply a staggering disgrace.
The TPD was drawn up by an alleged crook who was fired by the EU and its Article 20 was written in some Brussels back room to purposely avoid democratic process and without consultation, evidence base or an impact assessment [PDF]. The disastrous problems Article 20 will inflict on e-cigs and vaping are fundamental and will utterly destroy their effectiveness at luring smokers away from tobacco (Clive Bates explains why in full here).
So you'd think, wouldn't you, that ASH - you know, the vaper's new friend - would be a trifle worried about such an undemocratic, corrupt and damaging set of regulations which can only harm 'public health'. Well, no, they absolutely love it!
Here is ASH's Hazel Cheeseman writing a haughty letter to The Times in response to Ridley's wisdom.
Sir, Matt Ridley misses the point on proposed European regulation of electronic cigarettes. Under the new tobacco products directive, electronic cigarettes and their contents will be regulated to ensure they are safer and more effective.By safer, I can only assume because fewer people will use them and by effective, I presume she simply doesn't understand how they work.
The evidence is now overwhelming that vaping is safer than smoking and offers a good chance for many smokers to quit.Well yes, Cheeseyperson, they certainly used to, but that was when levels of nicotine over 20mg were allowed to wean smokers off of tobacco. It won't be the case after the TPD has been implemented because 20mg is simply not enough to hook smokers unless they are incredibly committed to quit. It's almost like ASH still want there to be a rump of hardcore tobacco users to justify their jobs, isn't it?
The EU has therefore rightly rejected the approach of other parts of the world where electronic cigarettes have been banned altogether. Instead, EU regulations will provide a safe framework through which electronic cigarettes can be sold, giving their users confidence in these products. This is likely to save many thousands of lives.
Sorry, Hazel, but that's bollocks. Your support for Article 20 will - let's slip into your vernacular for a minute here - cost many thousands of lives. Because, y'see, every smoker who can't get the buzz of e-cigs containing under 20mg of nicotine will continue to smoke and the cost differential will be dramatically degraded by the onerous regulations being placed on e-cig manufacturers and vendors. I know ASH are fucking shit at economics but even they should be able to work out this simple piece of maths.
For every penny added to the cost of an e-cig starter kit, a smoker will be dissuaded from switching away from tobacco.
Smokers will benefit from having electronic cigarettes on sale that meet reasonable consumer standards.
Article 20 is not reasonable and does not set consumer standards which are in any way fit for purpose. The only effect of Article 20 will be to put smokers off of e-cigs, the only debatable stat is about exactly how many will be deterred. Will it be hundreds of thousands or only tens of thousands?
So how does this square with ASH and their exalted new position as the vaper's friend? Well it doesn't, obviously. Just the fact that Cheeseman felt motivated to attack one of Westminster's most vociferous supporters of vaping is very telling.
You see, ASH are a central element of the Framework Convention Alliance (FCA) - a lobby group allied to the World Health Organisation - which hates e-cigs. They are also beneficiaries of a hefty grant each year from the UK government whose official position is that e-cigs are a bit icky.
You simply don't rock the boat if your occupation relies on pallying up to pharma-enthralled WHO and a government which hands you free taxpayer cash. 'Public health' be damned.
ASH is the vaper's friend, but only when it doesn't involve biting the hand that feeds them. Yet another reason why they should be cut off without a penny, it would help focus their minds on what works for harm reduction instead of acting on what benefits their salary bill.