Electronic cigarettes should be seen as a normal consumer product and not be regulated under the Tobacco Products Directive, according to Giovanni Carucci, vice president EU affairs at British American Tobacco (BAT).
Carucci said the next European Commission should consider the differences between e-cigarettes and traditional cigarettes and act accordingly when it revisits the two most important acts related to the tobacco industry: The directives on tobacco products and on the tobacco excise duty.
A report from the Commission on e-cigarettes is due in 2021, according to the tobacco directive, and the next steps will depend on this report.
According to Carucci, electronic cigarettes don’t contain tobacco and should be treated like a normal consumer good, regulating only some aspects.
“As e-cigarettes contain nicotine, they should be targeted to adults and there is also an issue of standards and quality to regulate. This should not be a jungle,” he said.
Both the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the European Commission have adopted a precautionary approach when it comes to e-cigarettes.
Recently, the head of EU Health Commissioner Vytenis Andriukaitis’s cabinet, Arunas Vinciunas, compared e-cigarettes to poison, triggering the reaction of several stakeholders, who accused the executive of ignoring science on the matter.
“I think that the head of the cabinet was expressing his personal view and he was not talking as a representative of the Commission,” BAT’s Carucci said.
EURACTIV also interviewed Cristopher Proctor, Chief Scientific Officer at BAT:
“We don’t have the long term risks really sorted out yet, but we are doing research on our own product,” he said but added that the UK executive agency Public Health England considers e-cigarettes 95% safer than traditional ones.
He added that nicotine is the only thing in common between electronic cigarettes and traditional cigarettes, but the chemical compositions and other components are different.
“Public health professionals in the UK advocate that people should switch to e-cigarettes as a way to switching out smoking,” he concluded.
A similar view is shared by Dr Konstantinos Farsalinos and Dr Konstantinos Poulas, two public health experts from the department of pharmacy at the University of Patras in Greece.
“Smokers need, deserve and should have the right to have access to less harmful products in an effort to quit smoking,” they said.
However, earlier this week, Dr Vera Luiza da Costa, the head of the Secretariat of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), told EURACTIV.com in an interview that with the tobacco industry’s push for electronic cigarettes the trade “just changed clothes while the content remains the same.”
Similarly, EU Health Commissioner Vytenis Andriukaitis told EURACTIV that “harm is harm” regardless of whether it’s smaller or bigger. He added, however, that if there was a real possibility to help heavy smokers kick the habit with the help of electronic cigarettes, then a specific methodology should be followed with the help of medical doctors.
[Edited by Sarantis Michalopoulos]