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Poland and France Receive Criticism

International health experts and an advocacy organisation have criticised plans to tax nicotine pouches in Poland and ban disposables in France despite the health benefits they offer over smoking

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International health experts at Smoke Free Sweden have criticised a new proposal from Poland’s Finance Ministry which would tax cigarettes and nicotine pouches at the same level despite the vast difference in the risk they pose to users. In France, a parliamentary committee approved a ban on disposable vapes. The World Vapers' Alliance (WVA) has urged policymakers to reconsider the far-reaching consequences of this move on public health and harm reduction.

Sweden, which is on the brink of being officially smoke free and has significantly lower smoking rates than Poland, has adopted a system of taxation proportionate to the risk of alternative products. In practice, this means that the rates of taxation for nicotine pouches are, on average, 30 kroner (€2.65) cheaper than cigarettes, because they pose only a fraction of the risk.

Furthermore, says Smoke Free Sweden, making alternative nicotine products a more affordable choice is one of the factors in Sweden’s dramatic reduction in smoking rates, which have fallen from 15% to 5.6% over the past 15 years.

Meanwhile in Poland, smoking rates are 26%, compared with a European average of 23%.

The Smoke Free Sweden movement is urging the Polish government to rethink nicotine product taxation and adopt an approach that will incentivise smokers to make a less risky choice.

Dr. Delon Human, leader of the Smoke Free Sweden initiative and former Health Advisor to three WHO Directors-General, said: “The Polish government must follow Sweden’s lead and implement a system of taxation that accurately reflects the relative risk of each product. This approach works: Sweden is on the verge of becoming officially smoke free because safer alternatives are an affordable option.

With over 75,000 Poles dying annually from smoking-related diseases, there's no justification for this ill-conceived policy.”

Like Poland, France is also ploughing an anti-harm reduction furrow.

Michael Landl, the Director of the World Vapers’ Alliance, states, "Prohibition doesn't work. It never has, and it never will. A ban on disposable vapes will not eliminate the demand but shift it from regulated markets to the black market, creating negative, unintended public health consequences."

The ban on disposable vapes is counterproductive to harm reduction”, Landl further states. "Disposable vapes can act as a crucial stepping stone for smokers looking to quit. They offer an easy entry point, and many smokers eventually transition to other vape devices. Making that path from smoking to vaping as frictionless as possible is essential for public health. While cigarettes, known to be extremely harmful, remain readily available, banning a 95% less harmful alternative defies logic."

The ban aims to ‘guarantee a high level of public health protection, especially safeguarding young people and non-smokers from proven health risks’. However, the WVA highlights that vaping, including disposable vapes, is significantly less harmful than smoking cigarettes. Pushing these products into the black market poses a greater public health risk than regulated, quality-controlled products sold with age verification.

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Dave Cross avatar

Dave Cross

Journalist at POTV
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Dave is a freelance writer; with articles on music, motorbikes, football, pop-science, vaping and tobacco harm reduction in Sounds, Melody Maker, UBG, AWoL, Bike, When Saturday Comes, Vape News Magazine, and syndicated across the Johnston Press group. He was published in an anthology of “Greatest Football Writing”, but still believes this was a mistake. Dave contributes sketches to comedy shows and used to co-host a radio sketch show. He’s worked with numerous vape companies to develop content for their websites.

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