This article was cross-posted for The Commentator
Public Health England has concluded E-cigarettes are ‘95 percent safer’ than traditional tobacco products. However, EU rules will now prevent the growth of the ‘vaping’ industry, which has weaned so many off cigarettes.
Over 2.5 million Britons are estimated to use E-cigarettes, a product which simulates the intake of nicotine without the harmful effects of inhaling smoke.
Like much of the broad based legislation spewing out of Brussels, the EU’s Tobacco Products Directive (TPD) limits consumer choice and imposes more barriers for introducing innovative products onto the market.
Despite the wide consensus that vaping is considerably less harmful than smoking, EU rules will force E-cigarette companies to undergo overzealous tests, ban them from advertising and follow bizarre new rules such as insisting on smaller refill containers. All this will pitch them onto an uneven playing field against the big tobacco firms.
As Christopher Snowden from the Institute of Economic Affairs has said, the TPD is effectively ‘pro-smoking’. By imposing such counter-productive rules, millions of ex-smokers now risk coming back into the fold when they find out many vaping products will be withdrawn.
This latest interference not only highlights what meddlesome bureaucrats do with their time in Brussels, but further cements the perception the EU suffers from a major ‘democratic deficit’.
The E-cigarette industry was thought safe in October 2014, when MEPs sensibly voted to class vaping products as consumer items. Lo and behold, the unelected officials on the European Commission vetoed this and decided E-cigarettes should now be included in the TPD, despite them containing no tobacco.
Why has the EU gone with such a decision? Vested interests and the profits of the major tobacco firms come to mind. When a new industry shows signs of shaking up a monopolised industry and bringing innovative ideas to the fore, you can count on the EU to stop it.
It is astonishing the European Council does not realise the TPD will actually be damaging to the public in the long run. Having the appearance of helping to bypass useless laws is not the same as actually helping.
The EU ombudsman Emily O’Reilly, who oversees complaints to the EU, has even criticised top European Commission officials for not disclosing their meetings with big tobacco firm lawyers. The UN has backed O’Reilly’s statements, having accused the EU of severe incompetence regarding international tobacco lobbying rules.
As the World Health Organisation has clear rules against close government relationships with big tobacco firms, MEPs have come under fire for undisclosed meeting with companies such as Philip Morris. Such dealing between EU officials and multinational corporations is a recipe for disaster. It not only goes against real consumer interest, but is wholly undemocratic.
An EU health commissioner even had to resign in 2013, yet the TPD is still going through. So much for listening about real reform. Lobbying in Brussels is a closed shop and much is hidden from a public who demand transparency. This is clear corporatism at play, and the big tobacco monopoly is clearly threatened by the smaller vaping companies.
The European Commission says E-cigarettes are “growing rapidly and simulate smoking behaviour”. One may be confused by the EU’s aims here. Is it really about the health issue?
Or is it a case of ‘nanny state’ politicians stopping people engaging in an activity they do not like? Even Public Health England concluded ‘The gateway theory is ill defined and we suggest its use be abandoned’.
This is not sensible, common sense law-making, but cumbersome red tape which infringes on our lives. We have seen such petty legislation before. To name just a few: ‘energy efficiency’ drives which would ban certain household items; threats to increase taxes for small cider producers; and insurance requirements for mobility scooters. The interference is absurd.
Such EU legislation will be brought in with Treaty 20 of the TPD. Our own parliament in Westminster has absolutely no say on this issue and it must be implemented by May 2017.
To put an end to the EU’s supremacy over our own parliament, we must Get Britain Out.