On Friday EU MEP for Wales Dr Kay Swinburne very kindly set time aside to discuss the EU Tobacco Directive with myself, Jean (our MD) and Mike.
Dr Swinburne is already convinced by the science behind vaping (her position was that she would prefer people to quit, but that if they can’t or won’t ecigarettes are the next best alternatives) so we spent our time discussing the directive.
Here are some of our notes from the meeting – I hope you find them as valuable as I did!
Keep contacting politicians!
The campaign to contact and persuade MEPs is working, according to Kay. She has had tonnes of letters from vapers and believes it is having a big effect. So please don’t stop – especially now in the run up to amendments AND local elections.
We have a list of EU MEPs, how to contact them and where they stand here (page since removed),but it is worth contacting all politicians!
The Biggest Problem for ECigarettes
The biggest problem, according to Kay, is that electronic cigarettes are seen as a gateway to smoking for children. She had been told there was substantial evidence of this.
I’ve yet to see any (have you?), and indeed one study found that out of over 200 11-19 year olds, just two had tried e-cigarettes – both were existing smokers.
Tobacco Directive is guidance – but that doesn’t mean it is good news for UK vapers
Kay emphasised that the tobacco directive is essentially guidance, with countries free to implement it in the way they want to.
But that’s not good news for the us, as Kay tells us that the UK typically goes further than any other country in Europe when implementing EU directives.
Tougher rules on lobbying than any other area
Intriguingly, because of WHO guidance, the rules on lobbying for any of the areas covered under the tobacco directive are stricter than any other area of legislation. Essentially, lobbying is not allowed but Dr Swinburn could meet us because we were her constituents (although even that would be disclosed).
EU wants to hurry things through, but legislation could take years…
The EU is trying to hurry this through by changing the usual legislative process.
There are normally two plenary sessions, but the EU hopes to get this through in just one session so they can get the legislation through by September. If they do fail (and as this is a very controversial issue there is a good chance of them failing) expect thousands of amendments, and a process which could take up to five years!
So expect legislation to be made at the country level
Part of the reason the MHRA has taken so long to come up with regulation on e-cigarettes is because they are waiting for an EU decision. But if an EU decision is not made in reasonable time, countries are likely to come up with their own legislation.
Political Parties and Vaping
We already knew Conservative MEPs are pro-vaping, as are UKIP (but then they oppose all EU regulations!) Labour MEPs are either undecided or support a ban on e-cigarettes, and few seem to understand the issues (in particular they do not understand that a 0.4% limit on nicotine in electronic cigarettes is an effective ban).
Liberal Democrats are, however, a group to focus on. Kay believes they are not a cohesive group and lack a common stand on many issue. As a result, it’s really worth contacting each MEP individually.
Watch the ENVI Presentations
These will tell you who you need to contact! Representations will be made on the 7th and 8th of May, so comments will need to made very quickly! You can find the ENVI agenda here.
Thanks to Dr Swinburn for taking the time to meet us and discuss these issues.