Your report on the recent draft tobacco-products directive was unfortunately superficial (“Commission proposes to ban menthol cigarettes,” 20 December-9 January).
I should note first that I write on behalf of the American Council on Science and Health, a consumer organisation concerned about the dangers of tobacco and with no disclosures relevant to this letter.
The draft proposes measures that, while ostensibly aimed at promoting the EU's public health by reducing the toll of “tobacco”, will instead have the opposite effect.
The approximately 700,000 EU residents who die prematurely each year from tobacco die from repetitively inhaling cigarette smoke.
So it is mindless and antithetical to public health that the proposal continues the ban on one of the safest forms of nicotine delivery – smokeless tobacco, in the form of snus – while allowing sales of more toxic products (such as hookah tobacco) and lethal, addictive cigarettes.
This approach ignores – wilfully, it appears – data from Sweden, the one country in which snus is legal. That suggests that snus use significantly reduces smoking. The obvious explanation is that snus, which in its modern form kills almost no one, supplies the nicotine that ex-smokers crave in a form potent enough to permit them to quit smoking successfully. Meanwhile, accepted pharmaceutical methods of weaning smokers off cigarettes fail nine times out of ten.
The proposal also gratuitously adds an insurmountable hurdle to the sale of a new form of
smokeless tobacco – electronic cigarettes – by setting ridiculously low standards for nicotine delivery.
Instead, the proposal gambles on banning “slims” and flavoured cigarettes and on requiring large graphic warnings. There is little or no evidence that these serve as disincentives to smoking, either among adults or teens.
The net effect of this proposal will be to protect cigarette markets and ineffective pharmaceuticals, while increasing the tragic, largely preventable toll taken by smoking. The current proposal throws smokers under the Big Tobacco bus.