by Adam Auger
Unless you have been sleeping under a rock for the last year you have probably noticed there is a war going on. It is close to home, and involves the people of the European Union (EU) and the Political Institutions who serve them (ostensibly). This war involves no guns, no bombs, no conscientious objectors; only legislation brought into European law that will effectively kill more people than died in The Black Plague and both World Wars combined.
The Electronic Cigarette (Ecig), in all its various forms, has the ability to literally change the world; it offers smokers the option to move to a safer alternative without the tar and chemical diseases associated with burnt tobacco. It may also have the power to start a revolution if the EU populace are denied it.
The Eurocrats believe that the Ecig should be designated a ‘medicine’, not the smoking alternative it actually is (despite the fact that seven EU Courts have already ruled that this is illegal); that its use should be the same as that of NRT (no doubt with similarly appalling failure rates); that it helps nicotine users ‘quit smoking’ (despite the apparently deliberate confusion with ‘quitting nicotine’). Perversely, it is this belief in the medicalisation of ecigs that would actually wipe out ecigs and result in the aforementioned death toll.
The first question that may pop into your head is: why would they do this? Good question. Some may say that the Eurocrats, in their unfaltering wisdom, believe that they know what’s best for their beloved subjects, and since it appears (on the surface) that they are, in fact, a medicinal item, they believe they should be regulated as such. (It is important to note that a small handful of MEPs, following correspondence directly from their constituents, have fought hard against this, but despite the European Parliament’s very clear vote against medicinal regulation, what we now have is meds regs in all but name.) Others may point out that, since the first draft of the Tobacco Products Directive (TPD) was steered by former Commissioner John Dalli, (the one who was forced to resign from his job as EU Health Commissioner) an avid hater of the ecig technology and generally corrupt politician, we shouldn’t be surprised that the majority of the Eurocrats have followed his lead. Yet more would point out that, as the Corporate Europe Observatory released its somewhat existentialist findings that NONE OF US EXIST (pats self-down, just checking), it made it easy for the Eurocrats to come to their preconceived conclusions without the bothersome, non-existent ecig users to hassle them anymore.
Looking at some numbers, according to RolandBerger.com, the EU collected 107bn EUR in taxes and VAT from tobacco in 2012. The UK government alone collected £12.1bn in taxes and VAT in 2011-2012. Possibly a fair assumption to suggest, that if people switched from tobacco to ecigs, some Member States may wonder how they will continue to run their economies efficiently. ASH estimates that the NHS spends £2.7bn a year on smoking related diseases, though some studies have placed the amount at almost £5.7bn a year. If the reader decided to be pessimistic and take the larger figure then that still leaves the UK government sitting on a cool £6.4bn a year. Add to that the constant price hikes on tobacco with each budget (it’s ok, the users are addicted) then that number can only rise.
The next question that would undoubtedly follow might well be: are ecig consumers doing anything about this? It would be a fair answer to say that a massive grassroots movement has sprung up, in an effort to fight the powers that wish to end their lives prematurely. No one would argue that starting smoking in the first place was a fatal mistake, but the choice to try and do something about it, when a viable opportunity presents itself, such as vaping for instance? Well that is a grand personal gesture to one’s lungs. To then have that taken away, along with many other such erroneous actions, by a body of people that believe they know what’s best for you… well, it’s enough to grate the nerves.
Many letters have been written to MEPs and MPs, detailing the personal experiences of people that switched to ecigs after years of smoking; people who had become disillusioned with the notion of ever being able to quit such an addictive habit. Twitter and other social websites have been ablaze with vapers and those that support public health, trying to reach out to their aggressors. On the day of the ENVI vote in Brussels, many ecig users from across Europe joined together to peacefully protest outside the European Parliament against a de-facto ban, with the UK’s own contingent, led by a popular VTTV presenter, like Moses leading the Israelites, into the Capital. Sadly, these efforts have been to no avail. The ENVI vote went against the vapers, the European Parliament redeemed itself by voting overwhelmingly against meds regs, but the final agreed text not only bans a majority of the effective products, but also bans VTTV! It is as if the lords and ladies in their ivory towers have been muttering, ‘Qu’ils mangent de la brioche’, to themselves, whilst chuckling at their little jokes.
All is not lost though; the end is not nigh; the zombie apocalypse has not yet begun. The Eurocrats may well be trying to kill you, but they haven’t succeeded yet. The fight for freedom from tobacco continues, firstly in the opportunity for amendments during the second Plenary and finally, if all else fails, if/when a Member State decides to bring in Implementing Legislation and it goes to court.
In the words of a late great leader,
“We shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender.”