ETHRA Response to Cancer Plan

Posted 21st July 2021 by Dave Cross
Members of European Tobacco Harm Reduction Advocates (ETHRA) have conducted a mass letter writing campaign to address MEPs in response to the European Commission’s draft Beating Cancer Plan report. The European Parliament’s Special Committee on Beating Cancer (BECA) was set up to examine actions the EU can take to tackle cancer and the effects it has on people’s lives.

The draft report was presented by Rapporteur Véronique Trillet-Lenoir, at a BECA meeting on 15 July, where members discussed it and tabled questions. Ahead of the meeting ETHRA and partners wrote to all 66 members of BECA, “to outline the important role tobacco harm reduction can play in achieving the goal of reducing cancer in Europe, by encouraging adult smokers to quit smoking by switching to lower risk smoke free alternatives.”

ETHRA state: “We hope our elected representatives in the European Parliament will give serious consideration to the points we have raised, and scrutinise the draft report appropriately. MEPs can table amendments to the report by 14 September. Consideration of amendments is expected to be on 14 October, with a second reading on 8 November. The vote in committee will then take place on 6 December 2021.”

The letter, translated into the languages of the Union, addressed five key points:

  1. The biggest cancer wins (and failures) will be in tobacco and nicotine policy
  2. The critical policy distinction is between smoked and smoke-free nicotine products - not between tobacco and non-tobacco
  3. Avoid regulation that protects the cigarette trade
  4. Implement risk-proportionate regulation
  5. Focus on securing major cancer gains for adults

It addressed the problem of the committee members inadvertently delivering unintended consequences: “Good measures will deliver results, but well-intentioned but poorly designed measures aimed at suppressing low-risk products can have the effect of increasing smoking, promoting relapse and preventing switching.”

It pointed out that as the largest cause of death and disease is smoking, the solution is a future that embraces alternatives.

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The critical distinction for public health purposes is between smoked products (cigarettes, hand-rolled, cigars etc.) and smoke-free products (vaping, heated tobacco, nicotine pouches, snus).  Sweden has the lowest rates of smoking in the developed world (and a substantially lower burden of disease as a result) because of snus, an oral tobacco product. There has been a 44% decline in cigarette sales in Japan in just five years (2015-20) as heated tobacco products have disrupted the cigarette market.”

ETHRA told MEPs that a positive future is one that has evidence-based, risk proportionate regulation that recognises how reduced harm products improve the health of society. A key part of this is not attacking e-liquid flavours or prioritising fears of teen initiation over the benefits of adults switching away from tobacco.

References:

  1. European Tobacco Harm Reduction Advocates – https://ethra.co/
  2. Letter to BECA – https://ethra.co/images/ETHRA-letter-to-BECA-3-Feb.pdf


 Dave Cross
Article by Dave Cross
Freelance writer, physicist, karateka, dog walker
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