She will make that point to the 2017 Global Forum on Nicotine (GFN), which takes place in Warsaw, Poland from 15th to 17th June.
The forum will also hear from Atakan Befrits, a tobacco harm reduction advocate from Sweden, who told ECigIntelligence: “The view of the policy-makers is zero drugs, zero alcohol and zero tobacco and this is technically not possible.”
The GFN – slogan “Reducing Harm, Saving Lives” – will focus on international policy and advocacy in the e-cigarette sector. Main topics will be national harm reduction policies, the deeming regulations in the U.S. and the Tobacco Products Directive (TPD) in Europe, and the future of vaping industry in terms of regulation and science.
Harm reduction movement
Befrits will give a presentation on Friday 16th June about the anti-tobacco harm reduction movement in the Nordic countries and elsewhere in Europe.
He says governments are generally designing repressive nicotine regulation without taking into account the benefits of tools such as e-cigarettes for reducing the use of traditional tobacco.
Amelia Howard, a PhD candidate in sociology at the University of Waterloo in Ontario, will talk about the past and future of tobacco and the vaping industry.
She will say some policy-makers are “discrediting” citizens who use e-cigarettes as a smoking cessation tool and that governments are designing “harsh laws” to regulate something that is low-risk.
“There is a social discredit and a lack of trust in the industry and in the people that use vaping products”, said Howard.
She and Befrits agree that policy-makers are following a common trend of taxing vaping products in order to regulate and limit the use of e-cigarettes and to equate them with smoking products.
“The easy way is to have as much smoking restriction as possible and to tax products as much as possible”, points out Befrits, who believes many governments are influenced by organisations opposed to tobacco harm reduction (THR).
Howard added: “State and local administrations in the U.S. are focusing their policy on illegitimate taxes that force small and medium businesses to close, because they don’t have the capital to pay the tax to the state.”
Some Eastern European countries have already taxed e-cigs or are preparing to do so.
In the U.S., some states have decided recently to tax vaping products. In New York, state legislators removed all taxes just before passing the state budget. Kansas has also voted a reduction in the state e-liquid tax from $0.20 to $0.05 from 1st July 2017.
The trend of policy-makers towards a restrictive policy on e-cigarettes may also be because of continuing scientific uncertainty about the effectiveness of vaping products. According to Befrits, the weakness of evidence so far is taken by some anti-THR organisations as evidence against e-cigarettes.
Howard pointed out that political decision-makers are dismissing figures and data that appear in comprehensive reviews and research on vaping made by trusted organisations.
What This Means: Restriction of usage and taxation seem to be prime policies adopted around the world to reduce the use of vaping for smoking cessation.
The GFN will bring together the most well-known panelists – including Ethan Nadelmann, founder and executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance in the U.S. – to debate nicotine harm reduction and the role played by national governments and public agencies.
There will also be debate on the role of international bodies such as the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC), which oppose vaping.
– David Palacios ECigIntelligence staff