Tuesday saw the biggest win for public health in Europe in living memory, when e-cigarette community activism defeated those trying to protect the smoking economy in an EU Plenary vote. A huge debt of thanks is owed to LibDem, Independent and Conservative MEPs for voting against the proposal to medicalise e-cigarettes and thus an outright ban . They won the day and temporarily showed that there is much support for preventing PVs (personal vapourisers that replicate cigarettes) being medicalised and therefore banned .
Socialists, Greens, pro-pharma seats and others voted to ban e-cigarettes by medicalising them, but were defeated by 362 to 298 votes.
Still a long road to go
Next there comes a Council vote: a vote by the Council of Ministers, which will, here, be the 28 Health Ministers. Unfortunately they will almost certainly vote to ban e-cigarettes, since they need to protect government tax revenues (and lives simply don’t matter). Following that, as there will have been one vote for and two against, there may be some horse-trading before the vote goes to Parliament – because at that point there will not be an agreed Directive to put before the general assembly. At that stage, the score for the war so far will be Pro-Pharma 2, Pro-Health 1 (ENVI and Council for a ban, Plenary against a ban).
It may well be that things come to a grinding halt at that stage, and I have no idea what the EU process is when the Council disagrees with the Plenary on the content of a Directive. With luck there will be a delay that stalls the whole process till next year, when we will be able to convince more MEPs that this has become a voting matter and will affect their seats at the next election.
It’s also worth noting that even if we win the battle against medicalisation, the EU still have the option to class PVs as tobacco products. This could eventually be used to implement stringent regulations that would do almost as good a job as medicalisation in removing ecigs from the market. This is almost certainly their fallback position in the event of medicalisation failing at any stage.
History of the process
The EU Health Directorate had authored a new TPD (Tobacco Products Directive) that in effect banned electronic cigarettes and appeared to strongly benefit the pharmaceutical industry, the tobacco industry, and government tax coffers – while costing millions of lives by denying smokers access to harm reduction products. These are proven to have saved life on such a massive scale that Sweden, where THR products have been permitted for decades, now leads the world in reducing smoking prevalence and reducing smoking-related mortality; by 2016 male smoking prevalence will be down to 5%, and Sweden – alone in the world – now has a realistic chance of defeating smoking and banishing the cigarette industry (and by consumer action alone, at zero cost to the taxpayer). No other country has even the remotest chance of doing that.
The new TPD was the personal project of Commissioner Dalli, since sacked for corruption. (In fact the EU President sacked him within 30 minutes of the evidence being available, demonstrating strongly that the situation was already widely known and condemned.)
Dalli was alleged to have been the most corrupt politician in Europe, and was recently alleged to have been caught moving $100 million in personal funds to the Bahamas. The Police in Malta were desperate to indite him for numerous incidents, the Police Commissioner was reported as saying in a recent interview, but were unable to do so because of his power. He was then reportedly ‘kicked upstairs’ to the EU in order to get rid of him. No one who knows his history  would consider that his TPD was designed to benefit public health; such an idea is clearly risible.
His tradition has been strongly maintained by replacements in the EU, and the TPD continued to move through committee, voted through at every stage by supporters who appear quite close to the pharmaceutical industry. Their defeat at the latest stage is perhaps a sign that the community can reject the endemic corruption within the EU if they fight hard enough.
The UK’s MHRA, part of the famously incompetent Dept. of Health, whose Soubry just got sacked (sorry, ‘reshuffled’) as a reward for acting beyond her remit in order to protect pharma income, have run a campaign to remove ecigs based on repeated lies and disinformation in order to benefit their paymasters, the pharmaceutical industry.
– They said that ‘light-touch’ regulations would be applied. Then they changed this to ‘right-touch’ regulations (purported to be a combination of light touch but necessary regulations). This was a blatant lie since they also confirmed that no e-cigarette currently sold would be able to get a license.
– They said that licenses would be obtainable by a ‘fast track’ procedure: another blatant lie since the first ecig company to apply is still waiting after three years.
– They said that costs would be affordable – another outright lie since:
a. The first company to apply has still received no license and has probably spent around £2 million so far.
b. They say that a license will be required for each separate product, and that appears to mean some firms will need to pay a license fee of hundreds of millions of pounds per year (one vendor alone supplies more than 7,000 products).
– They said that product choices would not be restricted – a lie of epic proportions since no company can pay a license fee of hundreds of millions per year, least of all the small firms who comprise the majority of the trade.
– They said that in effect there would be little change to the current situation: a lie of such magnitude that it beggars belief. Every product on the market now would be banned and none would be licensable, according to the MHRA themselves.
– They said that improved safety and quality standards would result: an egregious lie. This is because, in the UK, consumer products are far, far safer than pharmaceuticals. It is inconceivable that a consumer product could stay on the market if it caused even the tinest fraction of the widescale death and harm that Chantix causes, for example:
— Hundreds of deaths and more than 10,000 serious adverse event reports are reported by the FDA
— Chantix is prohibited for pilots and commercial drivers in the USA due to the risk of psychotic events, suicide or heart attack killing many others (if reported in a DOT or FAA physical the candidate fails)
— France removed Chantix from the market due to the significant risk
The MHRA are serial liars and their campaign to protect the pharmaceutical industry at massive cost to public health appears to have stalled temporarily. We await their next move with interest; but don’t write them off, as they have almost unlimited funds to draw on, and money clearly talks in the EU: 298 seats voted in Plenary to kill millions of EU citizens, after all.
It couldn’t be much clearer than that.
 All current products would be removed from the market; none would be able to receive an MA if they applied for one (see below); perhaps one or two new models with one or two types of refill might achieve an MA at some point within five years or so. Thus, the current 1,000-plus hardware products and 100,000-plus refill products would be banned . This is not a de facto ban, it is an outright ban in all but name.
 One vendor alone sells over 7,000 refills when the base type, strengths and flavour are multiplied out. Each would require its own separate pharmaceutical license according to the MHRA. This is clearly impossible; in any case it is hard to see how even the largest company would be interested in more than two or three licenses.
 The MHRA stated that no e-cigarette currently on the market would be able to get an MA, so every single one of the thousands of products currently sold would be banned. In addition, an ecig firm already trying to obtain a license has invested more than three years and £2 million so far, with no result as yet. This appears to indicate that the MHRA are applying extremely stringent conditions and will require a new type of e-cigarette to be invented before they will issue a license. This is hardly ‘light-touch’ regulation, it is a clear attempt to prevent e-cigarettes impacting on pharmaceutical industry income, and a direct attack on public health.
 See the amazing list of his previous financial escapades on the ECITA website and at the Times of Malta. This is the man who sold off the de facto national bank of Malta for a pittance, allegedly to friends, while the President was in hospital recovering from a heart attack. Malta then moved him out, and up to an EU position where he was put in charge of the population of Europe’s health: a position that requires someone with an impeccable reputation, not someone with a history that reads like a mafioso. Europe got what they fully deserved.