EU says yes to e-cigs - but no to flavours

MEPs are cautiously in favour of harm reduction and e-cigarettes. But they also want to ban certain flavours. This is the starting point when Parliament votes on what measures the EU should take to reduce the risk of cancer in the region.

On 14 February, the European Parliament will vote on the EU's plan to fight cancer. The plan is a framework known as BECA (BEating CAncer). In a comprehensive report, parliamentarians from across Europe take a stand on issues ranging from treatment, information and prevention.

Smoking and e-cigarettes

The report contains 145 proposals for action to combat cancer in the EU, focusing on reducing smoking, which is a major cause of several types of cancer, along with health and safety at work and alcohol. But the report also includes guidelines for smoke-free nicotine products, such as e-cigarettes and nicotine pouches. 

"Calls on the European Commission to continue the scientific evaluations of the health risks related to electronic cigarettes, heated tobacco products and novel tobacco products," writes the European Parliament. EU Parliament investigators "This also includes the risks of using these products, compared to consuming other tobacco products." 

"Making it possible to quit smoking"

The report also highlights vejpning as a potential tool for smoking cessation. Parliament wants the European Commission to take this into account.

"We believe that electronic cigarettes can enable some smokers to gradually quit smoking." writes the EU Parliament.

Recognising harm reduction

According to the organisation ETHRAAccording to European tobacco harm reduction advocates, the EU Parliament report is an important step in the right direction in terms of the approach to safer nicotine products.

"On the positive side, the final report recognises tobacco harm reduction as a concept and suggests that safer nicotine products can play a role in fighting cancer. This is a big step in the right direction," writes Mr Perez. ETHRA in a commentary.

Risk of a ban on flavours

At the same time, the ETHRA worrying clouds on the horizon. The final report also addresses flavours in e-cigarettes and e-liquid. According to the authors of the report, some flavours increase the risk of young people and non-smokers starting to use them.

"E-cigarettes should not be attractive to minors and non-smokers. Parliament therefore calls on the Commission to evaluate, in the context of the Tobacco Products Directive, which flavours in e-cigarettes are particularly attractive to minors and non-smokers, and to propose a ban on these, as well as on all characteristic flavours in heated tobacco products and novel tobacco products." writes EU Parliament.

"Flavours are crucial"

According to ETHRA a ban on different flavours would have disastrous consequences. For both e-cigarette users and smokers.

"We know that flavours are crucial for smokers to successfully quit smoking with the help of safer nicotine products" writes ETHRA.

"Leads to more smokers"

ETHRA refers to the recent study in Eurobarometer. According to the statistics, the entire 31 per cent who quit smoking did so using flavoured e-cigarettes or similar devices. Fruit flavours were the most popular by far (48 %), followed by tobacco (36 %), menthol or mint (30 %), candy (20 %) and alcohol (4 %).

"Flavours that appeal to young people also appeal to adults. Restricting adults' access to products they use to quit smoking, and especially to stay smoke-free, will inevitably lead to an increase in smoking. Which would mean a failure in the fight against cancer." writes ETHRA.

The EU Parliament is expected to approve its report on 14 February. The Parliament will then submit its proposal to fight cancer to the European Commission, the EU's executive body.

Sources for this article:

BECA report adopted - Positives for THR overshadowed by the threat of a flavour ban

Strengthening Europe in the fight against cancer - towards a comprehensive and coordinated strategy  

Eurobarometer - Attitudes of Europeans towards tobacco and electronic cigarettes

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