How do EU citizens use e-cigarettes and other smokeless nicotine products?
This is what the organisation ETHRA wants to find out. More than 25 000 e-cigarette and snus users have so far responded to a survey, which could be the largest ever European compilation on the subject.
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"The aim is to provide a fact-based picture of the current situation and how future laws and restrictions may affect users - for better or worse. Politicians in the EU know far too little about this," said Mr Van Rompuy. Philippe Poirson, editor of the magazine Vapolitics, involved in the French interest group #sovape and responsible for the survey within ETHRA.
"Only negative about e-cigarettes"
ETHRA (European Tobacco Harm Reduction Advocates) is a collaboration of consumer-driven advocacy organisations from across Europe. The organisation represents e-cigarette users and snus users from around 20 countries and primarily monitors EU legislation. Right now, the focus is on an upcoming revision of the The European Tobacco Products Directive (TPD).
"The information on e-cigarettes that reaches decision-makers is often negatively biased and based on preconceived notions," says Mr Snyder. Philippe Poirson. "When we read posts from the bodies that influence EU politicians, we are struck by how little knowledge and interest there is in how e-cigarettes work for EU users. How can they make proper decisions when they don't even know how the products are used here in Europe? Most are basing their opinions on vague data from the US and highlighting unclear risks, but never potential health benefits, of e-cigarettes.
Flavours, taxes and bans
The survey focuses on three main issues: user behaviour and past smoking habits, availability and prices, and reactions to restrictions on different flavours.
"We have the feeling that politicians don't give much thought to the consequences of a flavour ban or high taxes for users. Lobby groups are putting a lot of pressure on politicians and a balanced discussion is not taking place. This survey will hopefully lead to a more open and serious debate," said Mr Muller. Philippe Poirson to Vejpkollen.
EU directive on e-cigarettes to be revised
The EU is currently collecting views and opinions on the current TPD. The TPD governs factors such as nicotine levels, product registration, bottle safety and container sizes. Among other things. All EU countries have, in one way or another, implemented the TPD in their respective laws on tobacco and related products.
More recently, several countries, including Sweden, have also started taxing e-liquid. However, this is not part of the TPD - but could very well be in the future, according to Philippe Poirson. And in the same way ban on flavours, that are underway in several countries, be part of a future tobacco directive.
"It is very easy for decision-makers to ignore what individuals say and think. But if a group organises itself and speaks with a strong voice, it becomes more difficult to fight back. That's why it's important for users to support organisations working on tobacco harm reduction, such as e-cigarettes and snus. And hopefully, the survey can be so extensive that it can be used in individual countries and not just at the EU level," says Mr Perez. Philippe Poirson.