The European Commission (EC) is currently undergoing a public consultation on the legislative framework for tobacco products, which includes e-cigarettes and other low-risk nicotine products. This consultation holds significant weight in determining the future regulations governing these products. However, concerns have been raised about the biased nature of the consultation and the potential for the EC to veer towards prohibition without adequate consumer input. This blog explores the importance of consumer participation in the consultation process and provides guidance on how individuals can make their voices heard.
1. The Need for Consumer Input:
The history of tobacco product regulations in the European Union (EU) has shown that without active consumer involvement, regulations tend to lean towards prohibition rather than harm reduction. Past revisions of the Tobacco Products Directive (TPD) have resulted in unnecessary restrictions on vaping, such as bottle size limits and nicotine strength caps. It is crucial for consumers of e-cigarettes, nicotine pouches, CBD products, and heated tobacco to engage in the consultation to prevent the implementation of further unwelcome regulations.
2. The Biased Nature of the Consultation:
Reports suggest that the current consultation is deliberately designed to elicit anti-vaping responses, raising concerns about its objectivity. The questions posed in the consultation focus on the perceived threats of new nicotine products, rather than seeking a balanced assessment of their impact on public health. Additionally, previous policy documents have ignored consumer input and relied on cherry-picked science from anti-nicotine sources, further highlighting the need for active consumer participation.
3. Participating in the Consultation:
European Tobacco Harm Reduction Advocates (ETHRA), an umbrella group of consumer advocacy organizations, emphasizes the significance of public responses in shaping EU tobacco policy. To have a meaningful impact, it is crucial for the number of responses to surpass previous levels. ETHRA provides a step-by-step guide for EU citizens to participate effectively in the consultation. With the consultation running until May 16, there is still ample time for individuals to submit their feedback.
4. Implications of Inadequate Consumer Input:
If consumer voices are not adequately represented in the consultation process, the EC may proceed with stricter regulations on e-cigarettes and other nicotine products. Potential outcomes include flavor bans, online sales restrictions, minimum age increases, and bans on internet advertising. Some EU countries have already implemented such measures individually, but if they become EU law, all member countries will be obliged to comply.
5. The Future of EU Tobacco Policy:
The EC is expected to adopt a final proposal for TPD revisions next year. However, the direction it takes will be influenced long before the proposal is published. Public input plays a crucial role in shaping the decisions made by the EC. While stakeholder consultations will follow the public consultation, these meetings may be skewed towards public health and tobacco control agencies, emphasizing the need for a strong public response.
The ongoing European Commission public consultation on the legislative framework for tobacco products presents a critical opportunity for consumers to shape EU tobacco policy. With a biased consultation and the risk of veering towards prohibition, active participation is essential. By voicing their opinions and providing evidence-based arguments, consumers can play a vital role in advocating for harm reduction and ensuring balanced regulations that prioritize public health while respecting individual choices. The deadline for participating in the consultation is May 16, 2023, making it crucial for individuals to act promptly and make their voices heard.
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