EU anti-cancer plan accused of ‘shutting the door’ on smokers trying to quit

As European health ministers met via Zoom today to discuss implementation of the EU’s wide-ranging new Beating Cancer Plan, one of the most influential organisations promoting harm reduction has pleaded for a rethink of its attitude toward alternative nicotine products.

The World Vapers’ Alliance (WVA), which represents around 13,000 individuals and 23 partner organisations, is opposed to the Cancer Plan’s proposal to equate tobacco alternatives with smoking – a shift away from harm reduction which the plan envisages leading to flavour bans and taxation “at similar levels to cigarettes”.

In an open letter to the EU’s health ministers, the WVA said “the plan shuts the door for smokers trying to quit using novel tobacco products…by picking abstentionism over harm reduction”.

WVA director Michael Landl told TobaccoIntelligence the Cancer Plan as it stands would lead to “disastrous consequences” for public health, sending many ex-smokers back to the habit. 

“Health ministers should understand that the measures the [European] Commission proposes are going to harm the health of citizens,” he said. “We believe it will be their duty to acknowledge and signal to the EU that this plan falls short.”


Subscribe to our Newsletter

Join in to hear about news, events, and podcasts in the sector

    See more

    Critical time ahead


    The Cancer Plan, unveiled in February, aims to bring down Europe-wide smoking prevalence to 5% by 2040, from a current 25%. Targeting combustibles as well as new nicotine products, it proposes tax increases, hikes in minimum excise duty, harmonised taxes on novel tobacco products, further controls on online marketing, and improved enforcement by member states in areas such as sales to minors and the encouragement of smoking cessation.

    After approval by the full European Parliament – which could vote on it in October at the earliest, although a delay is widely expected – it is likely to influence the next incarnation of the EU’s Tobacco Products Directive (TPD). The coming few months are therefore critical in determining the final shape of the plan, with its stringent approach to novel nicotine products already coming under fire from some MEPs.

    Strong action also has supporters, though. While many ministers did not mention tobacco control at all, implying that they don’t see it as a prime element in the plan, Netherlands health minister Paul Blokhuis made tobacco control the most prominent element of his short speech, saying that “novel and emerging tobacco products are to be included” in new measures.

    Meanwhile, supporters of tobacco alternatives in the UK are this week also striving to be heard by government as the deadline approaches for comments on tobacco legislation. Submissions on a review of the Tobacco and Related Products Regulations 2016 and the Standardised Packaging of Tobacco Products Regulations 2015 must be made by this Friday, 19th March.

    – Barnaby Page TobaccoIntelligence staff

    Barnaby Page

    Editorial director
    Before joining ECigIntelligence in early 2014 as one of its first employees, Barnaby had a 30-year career as a reporter and editor for newspapers, magazines and online services, working in Canada, the US and the Middle East as well as his current British location. He has edited publications covering fields including technology and the advertising industry, and was launch editor of the first large daily online news service in the British regional media. Barnaby also writes on classical music and film for a number of publications. Barnaby manages the editorial and reporting teams and works closely with the analyst teams, to ensure that all content meets high standards of quality and relevance. He also writes for the site occasionally, mostly on science-related issues, and is a member of the Association of British Science Writers.

    Our Key Benefits

    The global novel nicotine market is in an opaque regulatory environment that requires professionals to be on top of industry developments to make informed decisions and optimise their strategy.

    TobaccoIntelligence provides organisations with leading market and regulatory data analysis to anticipate and understand market developments globally and the impact of regulatory changes to the business.

    • Stay informed of any legal and market change in the sector that impacts your organisation
    • Maximise resources by getting market and legal data analysis daily in one place
    • Make smart decisions by understanding how the regulatory and market landscape evolves
    • Anticipate risks in your decisions by monitoring regulatory changes that impact your organisation