Consumers recently took the fight for safer products to the European Parliament with their contributions to an event titled “Harm Reduction: The Road to a Smoke Free Europe." Tom Gleeson of NNA joins us to analyse the arguments brought by consumers to MEPs at this event, and whether this means attitudes to THR could be changing in Europe.
Chapters:0:00 - Intro with Joanna Junak 0:53 - Harm reduction comes to the European Parliament 2:03 - What do Sweden's harm reduction gains mean for Europe? 2:56 - What have consumers told MEPs? 4:55 - What's next for THR in Europe? 5:50 - Closing remarks
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Joanna Junak: Hello and welcome. I'm Joanna Junak and this is GFN News on GFN.TV. Last December, the European Parliament organized an event titled: Harm Reduction – The Road to a Smoke-Free Europe. The event focused on efforts to tackle smoking-related disease and consumers' experience of quitting smoking with safer nicotine products. Notably, invitations were extended to consumer advocates in order to amplify their voices as an important part of the tobacco harm reduction cause. Joining us today to share the key points of the meeting is Tom Gleeson from New Nicotine Alliance Ireland. Hello, Tom. Thank you for joining us today. First, can you tell us who was invited by the European Parliament and why the invitation was significant?
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Tom Gleeson: Hello, Joanna. Yeah, well, the most important point was that finally the real experts - consumers - got to address the European Parliament. Three of us arrived: myself, Philippe Poisson and Julio Ruban Esteban. We got to tell them our experience. The importance of this is it's never happened before. We've never had consumers directly address the European Parliament before and we have to thank MEP Jonas Nielsen for organizing this. He invited ourselves and Clive Bates as an expert to make this presentation.
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Joanna Junak: Consumers' voices have frequently been ignored in discussions regarding safer products. What has changed?
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Tom Gleeson: I think the fact that Sweden has gotten so close to the smoke-free goal of 5%, I want to say they're at 5.6%, I think, this has brought focus to reduced risk products as a means of getting to that smoke-free goal. And also, the EU beating cancer plan has acknowledged the role that tobacco harm reduction has played. So now is the time for these conversations, and hopefully this is the start of a lot more. In the run-up now to the next Tobacco Products Directive, there'll be a lot of discussion on these, and consumers need to be part of that discussion.
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Joanna Junak: You represented consumers' voice at the event. What were the key messages you shared with MEPs?
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Tom Gleeson: Well, all three of us emphasized the fact that It's the variety and the flavours and the ease of access that made a huge difference when we changed from smoking to vaping. We told them all about our experience and they were varied. Philippe told a story of how it was his health issues. I told how it was almost accidental. I was curious about the devices. I had very little hope that they were going to be any different to any other NRT. But surprisingly, they were the one that worked. We told them how there was proof of concept for tobacco harm reduction. Sweden had already gotten there. And I think New Zealand is getting pretty close as well. Yeah, somehow or other we got 12 minutes out of that. The important messages that we wanted to get across was that you cannot regulate safer products with the same regulations as the most deadly form of nicotine consumption. It is very important that a distinction be made. If there was one thing we wanted the MEPs to take away from the day, it was that while combustible tobaccos are freely available. The safer product must be more available. It must be more affordable and more attractive. We were the proof that this works. Remember there are I think 27 million e-cigarette users in the EU. That's a huge demographic to ignore.
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Joanna Junak: So what can we expect will happen after this meeting? Do you think that from now on the consumer voice will be more important in discussions regarding THR?
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Tom Gleeson: We haven't heard anything yet but we will be pushing for it and we will be trying to get maybe some of the consumer advocacy associations included in the discussions leading up to TPD. Obviously the biggest influence on that will be the next COP. That will have a huge influence coming down. We have no say there whatsoever. We have no way of influencing that. Hopefully, EU regulators will be as sceptical of COP's recommendations as we are, especially now that we've presented our case in person to them.
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Joanna Junak: Thank you Tom. That's all for today. Tune in next time here on GFN TV or on our podcast. You can also find transcriptions of each episode on the GFN TV website. Thanks for watching or listening. See you next time.