The TPD 2021 Application Report singled out novel tobacco products such as snus and e-cigarettes, as posing “specific regulatory challenges”.
The document could become the first step in the reformulation of the infamous directive. Introduced in 2017, the aim of the EU TPD is to educate the public about the risks of vaping and prevent use by non-smokers and minors. Meanwhile many public health experts have been concerned that with all the restrictions set in place by the regulation, those seasoned smokers who had switched to vaping, would revert back to smoking.
And sadly, a number of studies have already indicated that this was indeed the case. The UK Office for National Statistics’ (ONS) annual publication release in 2018, Adult Smoking Habits in Great Britain, with data for 2017, had pointed out that while smoking rates amongst young adults had dipped further, those for older adults had for the first time in years, increased slightly, as predicted.
ECigIntelligence, the renowned independent data analysis resource for the tobacco-alternatives industry, had explained that the EU Commission has carried out different assessments with industry members, commissioned research to in-house scientists and third parties, and put in place a validation workshop to check the consistency and accuracy of all the findings, since 2019.
These findings have been used by officials as important sources in the document, which had then been forwarded to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee, and the Committee of the Regions.
The TPD 2021 Application Report
The TPD 2021 Application Report, was finally published by the European Commission on May 20th. It singled out novel tobacco products such as snus as posing “specific regulatory challenges”. Instead of acknowledging the benefits of such products, the report refers to them as a nuisance to regulate, saying that the market for tobacco and nicotine products as “more diverse and challenging to regulate”, as the new product categories “circumvent existing regulations” and can’t be fully addressed by the current TPD rules.
Health warnings, the existence of flavours, and the use of devices were among the issues singled out by the Commission’s report as “legal loopholes” exploited by these novel products. The Commission also said that it plans to amend the TPD to fully capture new products such as nicotine pouches and heated tobacco products (HTPs).
Products’ perception study
In compiling the report, the Directorate-General for Health and Food Safety (DG SANTE) is believed to have considered a product perception study, and researched how specific product categories, such as vaping and heated tobacco products, are perceived by the public.
The study titled, “European adult smokes’ perceptions of the harmfulness of e-cigarettes relative to combustible cigarettes: cohort findings from the 2016 and 2018 EUREST-PLUS IT,” aimed to determine the effects of the TPD on the harm perceptions of e-cigarettes compared to cigarettes, in adult smokers from six European Union member states (Germany, Greece, Hungary, Poland, Romania and Spain).
A total of 6011 participants were recruited in 2016, before the TPD was implemented. Of these, 3195 were followed-up in 2018 along with an additional new 2832 respondents in 2018. The researchers adjusted results according to consumption of cigarettes per day, sociodemographic characteristics and the number of times participated in the study.
The researchers found that in 2018, 28.4% of the respondents viewed e-cigarettes as less harmful than cigarettes, 61.8% believed that they were equally or more harmful than cigarettes and 9.8% responded that they did not know whether they were more, less or equally as harmful as cigarettes.
No significant overall differences in perceptions
However, there were no significant overall differences in perceptions between 2016 and 2018. The only exception to this was a change in “don’t know” responses in Spain, where participants were less likely to respond that they did not know whether e-cigarettes were less harmful than cigarettes in 2018 than they were in 2016.