March 4. 2024. 7:14

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MEP: E-cigarette ads legislation should be set at national, not EU level

National legislation concerning the promotion of electronic cigarettes would be more effective than an EU-wide framework, Swedish conservative EU lawmaker Johan Nissinen told EURACTIV in an interview.

In recent years, electronic cigarettes and vaping devices have soared in popularity in Europe.

On the challenges of regulating the products’ consumption and marketing, Nissinen suggested that each member state should implement national legislation.

“I don’t want the EU to define a specific model that will work for all countries. Every country needs to focus on itself. Every country is different and has different kinds of problems with tobacco,” Nissinen told EURACTIV.

“Europe is too divided on that to have a regulation,” he added.

“The main focus should be harm reduction. If they decide to put taxes, taxes should be after how bad the thing is. Cigarettes are going to have the highest tax, and [their use] is gonna go down,” according to Nissinen.

According to a 2021 Eurobarometer study, 76% of European smokers that gave up smoking or have tried to quit did it without any assistance, 13% with nicotine substitutes and 11% via vaping.

Nissinen cautioned, however, against promoting e-cigarettes as a “healthy” choice, suggesting the Swedish legislation as a model.

“We have alternatives to tobacco that have been allowed for a long time. There is a lot of research that nicotine patches and snus are much healthier than the others,” he stressed.

Nicotine pouches sit between the lips and the gum, with high-profile figures such as Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Tammy Abraham, and Kylian Mbappé being seen to use the products on social media networks.

For prevention among children and teens, awareness of traditional cigarettes and new tobacco products would be essential in schools, according to Nissinen.

“We need to have the same laws on social media that in society in general, meaning they are not allowed to show, expose advertising vaping, smoking or other nicotine products,” the MEP said.

“A lot of young kids will try things just because they don’t know about them. So if they have the knowledge that it is dangerous, they can at least have the chance to make their own choice,” he concluded.

EU tobacco directive

The European Commission is expected to revise its 2014 Tobacco Products Directive before the end of the current legislative mandate which ends in 2024. This revision should take into account the increasing use of e-cigarettes and other new tobacco products and advertising.

“I’m expecting that the tobacco directive is going to put higher taxes on all the products and be much stricter,” Nissinen commented.

On June 29, 2022, the European Commission proposed a ban in the EU on flavoured versions of heated tobacco – though the regulation does not address electronic cigarettes and liquids.

“With nine out of 10 lung cancers caused by smoking, we want to make smoking as unattractive as possible to protect the health of our citizens and save lives,” EU Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides said in a statement.

“To achieve this, it is essential to take stronger action to reduce tobacco consumption, […] and to keep pace with the constant flow of new products coming onto the market – which is particularly important to protect young people,” she added.