EU doctors condemn ‘harmful’ novel tobacco and nicotine products

Demand for novel tobacco products has been growing rapidly in recent years and industry has introduced a varied selection of novel alternatives to the market.  [SHUTTERSTOCK]

New novel tobacco and nicotine products are “harmful” according to a new report released from the Standing Committee of European Doctors (CPME), who represent national medical associations across Europe.

The report, which was published on 16 November, says that the CPME is “highly concerned about the health risks of emerging novel tobacco and nicotine products”, highlighting that they fall into “dangerous regulatory gaps”.

While the report specifies that tobacco remains “the single most lethal human product and single largest avoidable cause of premature death and disability worldwide”, it also highlights that the “typical use of electronic cigarettes produces an aerosol that includes toxic substances that have known health effects, resulting in a range of significant pathological changes”. 

The report includes a list of policy recommendations, calling on policy-makers to prohibit health claims for and use of such new tobacco alternatives, which includes both electronic cigarettes and heated tobacco products. 

The CPME specify that this includes prohibiting claims related to their effectiveness as smoking cessation aids as well as their marketing and promotion to non-smokers and children. 

E-cigarettes should be treated as a normal consumer good, industry says

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).


An increasing awareness and acceptance of the harmfulness of traditional smoking, combined with strong regulation and surveillance of tobacco and nicotine products, has seen the number of people looking to quit or reduce their tobacco intake increase. 

As a result, demand for novel tobacco products has been growing rapidly in recent years and industry has introduced a varied selection of novel alternatives to the market. 

Electronic cigarettes and novel tobacco products have emerged as alternatives to traditional smoking, which is responsible for nearly 700,000 deaths every year in the EU.

Both of these products are often promoted, especially to regulators, as conventional smoking cessation tools, despite the fact that there is limited evidence on the impact of their use of conventional smoking or on the relative harm of their use compared to conventional cigarette smoking, the report said.

Electronic cigarettes still bitterly divide stakeholders

There is general agreement that smoking is one of the worst things one can do for one’s health. But when it comes to alternatives like electronic cigarettes, the debate continues to divide stakeholders and policymakers.

The report states that the use of these products are not limited to those that are looking to stop or reduce their use of tobacco, but also those that find these novel products attractive and fashionable.

This includes young people, who the report identifies as “particularly susceptible” to both the appeal of these products and to nicotine addiction. Nicotine dependence has been correlated with adverse effects on the cardiovascular system and on the development of foetuses during pregnancy.

The report also states that there is a growing body of evidence which suggests that “e-cigarettes among children and teenagers serves as a gateway to conventional cigarette smoking”.

The EU Tobacco Products Directive currently governs the manufacture, presentation and sale of tobacco and related products, including the safety and quality requirements for e-cigarettes, their packaging and labelling, and the monitoring and reporting of developments related to e-cigarettes.

To date, the European Commission has been quite aggressive against these novel tobacco products, even comparing them with “poison“.

In several interviews with EURACTIV, former EU Health Commissioner Vytenis Andriukaitis insisted that although fewer than traditional smoking, these products still pose health dangers.

The Lithuanian politician emphasised that they should be in no way be a means of smoking cessation as there are other therapies approved by the medical community.

The tobacco industry and some scientists have said that these novel tobacco products cause much less harm compared to conventional smoking, considering that they are non-tobacco products that can deliver nicotine to smokers. They also refer to studies saying that these products can help smokers kick the habit completely.

In 2021, the European Commission is expected to submit a report on the application of the directive, including market developments concerning e-cigarettes and novel tobacco products.

EU Commission accused of ignoring science on e-cigarettes

The European Commission’s recent statement comparing electronic cigarettes to “poison” has prompted a strong reaction from stakeholders, who accused the EU executive of disregarding scientific evidence.

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