The European Commission is in favor of a cautious approach to heat-not-burn products because it believes that there is a lack of evidence relating to the short- and long-term health effects of using such devices.
This was part of the answer given by the Commission to questions raised by the Belgian MEP, Frédérique Ries.
In a preamble to her questions, Ries said that Philip Morris International had said that it intended to market its new ‘device for smoking’ in the UK, following its initial launch in Japan, Italy and Switzerland.
‘The distinctive feature of this new product, which has been named iQOS, is that it stands on the borderline between traditional cigarettes and electronic cigarettes,’ she said.
‘The major difference between iQOS and electronic cigarettes is that while the latter use a liquid transformed into vapor, IQOS heats the tobacco and keeps it burning [iQOS has been designed so as not to burn the tobacco it contains, only to heat it, as is implied in part of the Commission’s reply], which is very harmful to health.’
Ries asked whether the Commission concurred with health experts who claimed that marketing a hybrid tobacco product of this kind was a ploy to circumvent legislation in force and, in particular, all the requirements laid down in Article 19 of Directive 2014/40/EU concerning novel tobacco products.
‘What steps will the Commission take to thwart the strategies employed by cigarette manufacturers to sell alternative products that are still just as harmful to people’s health?’ she asked.
‘Will the Commission take this opportunity to alter its negative views on electronic cigarettes, which, as a growing number of cancer experts in the EU are now pointing out, do not contain any tobacco or tar and are helping many people to stop smoking?’
In reply, the Commission said it was closely monitoring the developments related to new tobacco products, including “heated not burned” tobacco products.
‘Currently, there is lack of evidence relating to short-term and long-term health effects and use patterns of these products,’ it said. ‘Therefore the Commission is in favour of a cautious approach.
‘At the same time, the Commission would like to underline that with regard to the sale, presentation and manufacturing of these products within the European Union, the relevant provisions of the Tobacco Products Directive apply and should be enforced. This includes the ban on misleading elements foreseen by Article 13 and notably any suggestions that a particular tobacco product is less harmful than others.
The Commission oversees whether member states fully and correctly apply the provisions of the directive.
‘With regard to e-cigarettes, given the lack of conclusive evidence relating to the long-term health effects, use patterns and potential to facilitate smoking cessation, Article 20 of the directive contains their regulation with an emphasis on safety, quality and consumer protection.
‘The rules for e-cigarettes nevertheless allow these products to remain widely available to consumers. A recent Commission report COM (2016) 269 underlines a number of potential risks to public health relating to the use of ecigarettes, at the same time highlighting the need for further research.’