The European Parliament’s Special Committee on Beating Cancer introduces a tobacco harm reduction perspective

20th Dec 2021

The European Parliament’s Special Committee on Beating Cancer introduces a tobacco harm reduction perspective as part of recommendations in its recently published report, but regrettably also recommends measures counterproductive to this aim.

In 2020, the European Parliament approved the creation of a Special Committee on Beating Cancer (BECA). BECA concluded its work on 9 December 2021, by adopting a report with calls for stronger EU action against cancer, on its last meeting before the end of BECA’s mandate. In the report, BECA introduces for the first time a tobacco harm reduction perspective on EU level.

Harm reduction and to promote legislation that encourages consumers to stop smoking and switch to less harmful products is a core ambition of Pouch Patrol. Pouch Patrol is grateful to our customers who have taken an interest in our products and advocated for a harm reduction perspective. We would also like to thank all of those who have shared valuable insights with BECA for this report. We are pleased to see that this commitment has paid off and that the concept of harm reduction is now included in the EU Parliament committee’s recommendations for the future work within the European Union to prevent disease and promote a healthy lifestyle.

BECA was vested with several responsibilities, including evaluating scientific knowledge on the best possible prevention of cancer and identifying specific actions and future measures in the fields of tobacco control.

Among its recommendations in the report, BECA strongly supports the goal of a tobacco free generation and notes that electronic cigarettes could allow some smokers to progressively quit smoking. BECA therefore calls on the Commission to fund programmes that promote smoking cessation. BECA further emphasizes, inter alia, that tobacco consumption is a risk factor common to other chronic diseases and BECA therefore believes that cancer prevention and risk reduction measures have to be implemented in the context of an integrated chronic disease prevention programme. BECA also calls on the Commission to pursue scientific evaluations of health risks for comparing electronic cigarettes and various tobacco products.

Pouch Patrol advocates for a risk-based approach in relation to tobacco and nicotine products, to encourage the switch from more harmful products such as cigarettes to less harmful products such as nicotine pouches. We are very happy to see that BECA in its recommendations shares this view.

The situation in Sweden serves as an example of why harm reduction and a risk-based approach to tobacco and nicotine products is important from a public health perspective. Sweden has the lowest percentage of smokers in the European Union and the lowest rate of tobacco related diseases and deaths. This is explained by the fact that other types of tobacco and nicotine products, mainly snus (tobacco pouches for oral use) and nicotine pouches, are more widely used in Sweden than in other countries. In fact, Sweden is the only Member State where sale of snus is legal. The situation in Sweden clearly shows that enabling sales of safer and healthier products and putting legislation in place that allows the sale of such products has a significant impact on the public health.

Pouch Patrol regrets to see that BECA’s report includes recommendations for restricting flavouring for electronic cigarettes and tobacco products. To reduce smoking, it is important that smokers are presented with attractive alternatives to encourage the switch to safer products. An important part of making safer products appealing is the flavouring. The recommendations for restrictions of flavouring are therefore at risk of being counterproductive in relation to the goal of reducing smoking.

Medicinal products with nicotine have been around for a long time but have not had any significant effect on smoke reduction and cancer prevention. It is clear that these products are not perceived as an appealing alternative by smokers. Smoking rates are however typically lower in countries with more liberal legislation in terms of design and marketing of tobacco and nicotine products. Sweden, with the lowest percentage of smokers within the European Union, has liberal legislation and snus and tobacco pouches are available in a variety of flavours on the Swedish market. The UK and Norway also have more regulations in place that allow for risk reduction products and are the European countries where smoking has gone down the most in recent years. The common denominator for countries that are more successful in reducing smoking rates is that these countries have legislation that ensures access to innovative and appealing risk reducing products.

In relation to legislative changes, BECA in its report welcomes the Commissions intention to review the Tobacco Products Directive and urges the Commission to take appropriate measures and to bring forward legislative proposals to prevent people from starting smoking.

Pouch Patrol welcomes the recommendations of the BECA report and the clear tobacco harm reduction perspective it introduces on EU level. We hope that the Commission considers the recommendations of BECA in its review of the Tobacco Product Directive and that the concept of harm reduction is reflected in coming legislation. Legislative changes to encourage consumers to switch from cigarettes to safer and healthier alternatives would have a significant impact on public health and would lead to lower rates of tobacco related diseases and deaths within the European Union. For this reason, it is discouraging to see that the report also includes recommendations that would discourage consumers to switch from smoking to safer alternatives.

Following the adoption by BECA of the report, the report will be subject to a Parliament’s plenary voting and is expected to be adopted in early 2022. We will continue our mission for legislative changes to incentivise consumers to switch to safer and healthier products to achieve public health goals within the European Union. In our efforts, we need your help to ensure that counterproductive measures such as restrictions for flavouring are not introduced in the coming legislation. We therefore urge you to reach out to your local decision makers and inform of how you managed to stop smoking and the role that nicotine pouches have played in your journey to become smoke free.

Together we can win the fight against smoking and achieve the goal of a healthier, happier Europe!