Wednesday, 28 October 2015

Government wants to implement TPD, Norwegian vapers bite back!

Kjell Marius Jenssen, head of board of NDS
On Monday Norwegian government parties Høyre and FRP announced they wanted to make it legal to sell e-cigarettes and e-juice containing nicotine here in Norway. Not surprisingly it was all just an effort to make it look like they're doing something good for public health, when really they're just preparing to implement the TPD.

Norwegian vapers, however, will not give up without a fight. Yesterday, Kjell Marius Jenssen, head of board of NDS, wrote an article published on minervanett.no, exposing the governments real intentions and calling their bluff. On behalf of Norwegian vapers, he bites back... hard.
Yesterday Høie and Wold celebrated themselves in the press. Finally  E-cigarettes will be made legal. It was even stated that e-cigarettes are good for public health. A little later that day the consultation paper was made public and all illusions vanished like dew before the sun. What the government took credit for wasn't actually making  e-cigarettes more easily accessible to Norwegian vapers, but rather introducing the EU tobacco directive Article 20 - an EU directive that actually obliterates the vaping phenomenon.
Google will probably translate the article well enough for you to see that it is a thorough walk through of the consequences, the undemocratic processes resulting in article 20 and finally a good summary of how NDS (and I think most Norwegian vapers will stand behind these views) view vaping and how it should be regulated.
Despite the fact that the government has access to all the information above and know that e-cigarettes are good for public health, they choose to promote a proposed regulation which effectively removes an alternative that is minimum 95 percent safer than tobacco smoking. When this is even communicated as a liberalization, one has to wonder if this is a sign of incompetence, or if they actually want to give the tobacco industry such a present.
But it gets better. Not long after Jenssen's article was published Dagbladet, one of Norway's biggest newspapers, picked up on the case and published an article with this headline: The government's e-cigarette proposal is a hoax. Now that's more like it. Jenssen's original article gets a link and some of the most important points are explained in a way most people can understand: The tobacco industry owned cigalikes that will be left on the market and the nicotine strength limit suggested will not make e-cigarettes a good alternative for smokers trying to quit. In the end, the tobacco industry will be the ones winning. This is also where Karl Erik Lund from SIRUS (The Norwegian Institute for Alcohol and Drug Research) comes in to support Jenssen's argumentation in an excellent way.
What the government seems to want with this is a step in the right direction, and the intention to lift the ban is good. But to use the EU's tobacco directive as a template for regulation of e-cigarettes would have disastrous consequences for those products that lures smokers away from the deadly cigarettes.
For the first time in history, we now have harm-reducing nicotine products with the potential to compete with - and preferably out - tobacco. But in order to do so the nicotine doses needs be high enough and taste variations must be allowed. The EU directive causes the product range to narrow, the products to become more expensive, the attractiveness is reduced and the tobacco industry are left as the winners.
Lund also continues to attack the process leading to the TPD, calling it a missed opportunity:
There is a broad agreement among European tobacco researchers that the tobacco product directive evolved to become a "missed opportunity" for e-cigarettes. This is because neither researchers nor users were included in the decision-making process.
Finally he explains how cig-alikes are not very popular (cause they don't work very well) and refers to data from the UK showing that vaping is not picked up by non-smokers.

Jenssen gets to explain a bit about the Totally Wicked legal challenge and that NDS have suggested e-cigarettes should be regulated as consumer products with an age limit of 18 years, before the minister of health, Bent Høie, and general secretary of the Cancer Society, Anne Lise Ryel, gets to say they're happy with the suggestion. Høie says the proposal is an improvement to the current situation, that it will clear up some misunderstanding that e-cigarettes are risk free, but that there are health benefits for smokers switching to e-cigarettes. His statements doesn't make much sense if you've read the rest of the article.

Finally, I'd say, NDS and the Norwegian vaping community are getting some good, fair coverage in Norwegian media. This article in one of Norway's biggest newspaper is surely valuable to us. However, I do think it is a bit disappointing that I haven't seen any other media picking up on the case yet. NTB, a big Norwegian news agency is referenced in the article, so more media should have picked up on it in my opinion. Hopefully they're just a bit slow, and hopefully this can spark a real debate here in Norway, where vapers and vaping advocates voices are also heard. We've been left out in the cold for way to long already.

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