Innovative science-based regulations needed to reduce tobacco related sickness, death

Governments and regulators should form science-based, innovation-driven regulations to help reduce tobacco-related sickness and deaths, according to Chris Allen, Chief Scientific Officer at Broughton Nicotine Services.

“Regulations must be based on sound science and not be driven by politics, which unfortunately is not always the case,” Allen said, adding, “Regulations must be progressive and allow innovation as new facts emerge.”

Allen’s remarks came during the GTNF 2020 virtual conference, which was held from 21-24 September. The conference brought together discussions on the actions required to innovate and structure regulatory frameworks.

Through a series of discussions involving international academics, civil society representatives, and industry representatives, the conference also covered compliance regarding tobacco and nicotine products.

Trade law consultant Abrie du Plessis said that the EU is one of the biggest trade blocs in the world. Consolidated in one single market, he added that the EU is interested in managing tobacco products with the aim of harmonising its single market whilst taking into account the high level of health protection. The European Commission (EC) and its member states are currently putting in place tobacco regulations.

The European Tobacco Products Directive (EUTPD) is “an inclusive process” and “evidence-based approach” that other countries can look to for guidance, du Plessis added.

However, the Tobacco Products Directive (TPD) has clearly stated that it will quickly move to the next step regarding the regulations for tobacco products and e-cigarettes. It is looking to the EC to publish a report by mid-2021, on which it will be able to propose amendments to the current directives on this that were put in effect in 2014, du Plessis noted.

The Tobacco Products Directive (2014/40/EU) aims to improve the internal market for tobacco and tobacco-related products, while ensuring a high level of health protection for EU citizens.

The Directive entered into force on 19 May 2014 and became applicable in EU Member States on 20 May 2016.

“What is important to the EU are quite detailed procedures that member states follow, with the procedures important to stakeholders and countries worldwide,” du Plessis said, adding, “There is a complex ongoing debate, with the EU requiring scientific opinion from a committee specialised in environmental and emerging health risks.”

This committee is responsible for investigating the scientific questions around tobacco products, and is committed to an evidence-based approach. The EC also has to take into account market studies and perception studies, which provide a clear outline of the procedures for the practical management of the market.

The studies would also provide a clear vision surrounding new products that will be made available to consumers, which will also involve experts and tobacco product manufacturers, du Plessis added.

Derek Yach, President of the Foundation for a Smoke-Free World, noted that seven million people die every year from tobacco-related diseases. There are 1.3 billion people using tobacco products, most of which are in a toxic, combustible form. The goal of a regulator should primarily be to reduce that harm in the fastest possible time.