ECig Opposition – the ANTS Bite Back

By | October 24, 2013

Amendment 170 of the EU TPD was accepted, MEPs have voted not to regulate ecigs as medicines. This was a victory for common sense because ecigs are not medicines – classifying them as medicines would have restricted their important roll of enticing people away from smoking.

Ecig opposition still exists – it seems counterintuitive to imagine but it is the Anti-Smoking lobby that are the most vocal at damning the very thing that promises to be the most effective tool for achieving their anti-smoking goal, the electronic cigarette. So what are they saying and why oh why are they saying it?

ECig Opposition Core

An article submitted by Dr Stanton Glantz PhD on the University of California’s website encapsulates many of the anti-ecig opinions in an eloquent and authoritative manner, it makes an interesting read for anyone wishing to know ‘what the hell are they thinking’, the well reasoned responses to the article are also worth reading.

At the start of the article Dr Glantz states that “the revisions just made to the draft EU Tobacco Products directive were a big win for the tobacco companies who are pushing e-cigarettes” – Dr Glantz clearly sees ecigs as something associated primarily with Big Tobacco and thus being part of the enemy.

Although tobacco companies may wish to be influential in the ecig market in order to maintain profitability as their customers stop using tobacco, the reality is that their products are just not taken seriously by vapers – the cig-a-like’s and disposables distributed by the tobacco companies may be (just about) OK for someone experimenting with the idea of transitioning away from smoking into the word of vaping but it is obvious that once someone has become a vaper then they will move to the sort of ecigs which are not distributed by tobacco companies.

The lobbying of MEPs that contributed to the ‘revisions’ that Dr Glantz objects to came from users of ecigs – users who know that without their freedom to vape they would return to tobacco smoking and that medical regulation would reduce the number of would-be vapers who can successfully choose vaping as a viable alternative to cigarettes.

Tobacco companies lobbied against many of the cigarette marketing regulations proposed in the EU TPD but actually had little to contribute to the debate about ecigs; this is not surprising given that tobacco companies derive vast profits from their sale of tobacco. Ecigs are, at most, a side issue for tobacco companies, who are unlikely to object strongly to regulation of ecigs if the effect of the regulation is to increase tobacco sales.

Quoting Opinion

In his article Dr Glantz quotes Martin McKee who wrote in the BMJ on October 16, “The draft legislation fails to address the rapid growth in sales of products designed to resemble real cigarettes as closely as possible. This subterfuge is widely viewed as a way to renormalise smoking, a key goal of those seeking to recruit child smokers, and to counter some of the effects of smoking bans.”

Above Martin McKee spells out that he views cig-a-likes badly. Unfortunately he seems to agree with the view that ecigs will ‘recruit child smokers’ but there is no evidence to substantiate that view. Vaping is not seen as an inspirational activity, it’s not seen as cool by the kids – it seems bizarre to imagine kids going to the effort to vape when ‘the real thing’ is so widely and readily available.

If normalising smoking is really the issue then the answer is not to attempt medical regulation of an effective alternative to smoking, it is simply to stop people smoking! The single most effective action taken to make smokers more visible, and thus renormalise smoking, was to force those that do smoke out of their bars and offices and onto the streets to be seen – but this reality did not stop the government banning smoking in public buildings.

Why Are Ecigs Opposed?

I could write much more about the views expressed by Dr Glantz in his article but the more interesting point is ‘Why would an anti-smoking professional be against ecigs?’

Ten years ago I would not have considered it remotely conceivable that I would ever write expressing a view counter to that supported by anti-smoking groups. I strongly support all efforts to make cigarette smoking a part of history, this is not because I am a vaper – it is because I have first hand experience of the dangers of smoking. Many of the people who express anti-smoking views have never smoked themselves and therefore have no knowledge of how difficult it is for some smokers to quit.

In the eyes of anti-smoking supporters, vaping is still smoking. They do not view vaping as a way to stop smoking by adopting a safer alternative habit – they seem to think that vaping is just a way to circumvent the controls on smoking that they have introduced.

Anti-smoking is an Industry

There exists a whole structure of anti-smoking groups and academics whose very professional existence relies on cigarette smoking remaining a problem. Many successful careers have been crafted from the opposition to tobacco use. Ecigs may bring about the end of the problem from which they earn their livelihood – additionally many tobacco research grant applications would have a much reduced chance of success if everyone had independently quit.

It must be galling for the anti-smoking lobby that, after decades of dedication to the anti-smoking cause, to find that the long-term extinction of smoking is possibly brought about by a product that had not been championed by themselves. It is a brave anti-smoking group who publicly recognises the potential roll in tobacco use abolition presented by the electronic cigarette. Action on Smoking and Heath (ASH) are widely recognised for their effective efforts to combat the scourge of smoking and so deserve to be singled out for praise in response to their almost uniquely, pragmatic and rational approach to ecigs – many anti-smoking enthusiasts could further their knowledge of ecigs and the potential for good that they offer by reading the information on their website.

TPDs Worldwide Implications

You may be wondering why Dr. Glantz of the American Legacy Foundation and Distinguished Professor of Tobacco Control would be expressing his opinion about the EU TPD on the website of an American university.

Although as vapers we might wish to think that the vote in favour of Amendment 170 which excludes ecigs from medical regulation within the TPD is the clearly expressed opinion of our democratically elected MEPs and is therefore inevitably to be adopted inside Europe, this is not quite true. The European Parliament is currently at the negotiation stage regarding the TPD with the Council of Ministers from national governments under the observation of the European Commission – in other words, it is not yet a done deal.

In a web-chat on 22nd Oct Linda McAvan failed to give assurance of her commitment to strongly represent the views of MEPs which was expressed in their vote for Amendment 170, despite being given every encouragement to do so. It was clear that she was only giving answers to questions that she felt comfortable with – she gave just sixteen answers in a web-chat lasting three quarters of an hour. There has even been a suggestion that at least one ecig question was planted – read the ‘e-cigarette-forum’ post that exposed that possible scandal by clicking here.

I speculate that articles like that written by Dr Glantz are intended to contribute to the negotiations – albeit from a distance. It seems probable that the TPD that is accepted within Europe will have some influence on the American FDAs views on ecigs – so the most effective way, at this point, to influence the FDA is to contribute to the European debate. If both the EU and the FDA do not force medical regulation on ecigs then worldwide acceptance of the principal is more likely.

Writing to Jeremy Hunt, the UKs Heath Secretary is an effective way for your voice to be heard by the participants in the TPD negotiations. If Jeremy Hunt can be persuaded of the conviction held by a million UK vapers that ecigs should not be medically regulated then it is possible that the effects of that could be felt not only in within the UK and not only throughout Europe but worldwide.


The views expressed herein are not necessarily those held by ECigWizard.

“Viva La Revolution”

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