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The European Union is currently deliberating its regulatory approach to safer nicotine products as it reviews its Tobacco Products Directive. In a bid to ensure consumer voices are not lost amongst these discussions, the World Vapers' Alliance is bringing a petition before the European Parliament to reaffirm the need for proportionate regulation of safer products. In this episode of GFN News, the WVA's Director Michael Landl fills us in on these efforts to boost the consumer voice in Europe.


0:00 - Coming up on today's programme
0:51 - Michael Landl's THR journey
2:40 - Battling misinformation
5:16 - EU TPD: What does it mean for vapers?
7:31 - Bringing the consumer voice to regulators
9:38 - Every Life Counts' petition
10:31 - A plea for proportionate regulation
12:04 - Closing remarks


00:00:04 --> 00:01:32

Joanna Junak: Hello and welcome. I'm Joanna Junak and this is GFN News on GFN.TV. While vaping is widely considered to be significantly safer than smoking, it is not risk-free. Some policymakers are concerned about potential long-term health effects, especially among young people and non-smokers. However, restricting access to safer nicotine products alongside the increasing misinformation around vaping could have unintended consequences. Many pro-vaping organizations say that implementing bans on safer nicotine products can pose regulatory issues, create black market and may drive users towards unregulated or more dangerous alternatives. Joining us today to discuss how Europe's tobacco control policies impact access to safer nicotine products is Michael Landl, the director of the World Vapors Alliance, a global group representing the interests of consumers of safer products. Hello Michael, it's good to have you on the program. First of all, can you tell us more about yourself?

00:01:34 --> 00:02:39

Michael Landl: Yes, I'm Michael, the director of the World Vapers Alliance. And personally, I think I have a very typical vaping story. Like so many people out there, I used to smoke for probably 12 years and started when I was 15, 16, something like that. And at one point, a friend of mine said, hey, there is this new thing, an electronic cigarette. And I was like, what's this? And tried it. And within two weeks, I was a non-smoker and fully passionate about this product, because basically I quit smoking without even trying to quit. So for me, it worked wonderful. I love all the flavors. And that's why I'm so happy to represent now the World Vapors Alliance, because I personally... fully believe in the product and think it's a very revolutionary product when it comes to public health. And I think it's very unfortunate, and we will talk about this, I guess, that it is under so much attack from all different sorts of people and politicians.

00:02:40 --> 00:02:47

Joanna Junak: Great, thank you. And what work has your organization, the World Vapors Alliance, been involved with?

00:02:48 --> 00:05:14

Michael Landl: Yeah, as World Vapors Alliance, we are a consumer organization and we have two kind of members. So we have individual members and currently we are almost at 80,000 individual members. And the second part is we also have partner organizations where we partner with them on different activities. And in different countries, we have 35 partners at the moment. They are spread all over the world. And obviously, since we are active around the world, our activities are also very different. So it's like from traditional media work where we send out press releases when something is happening to meeting politicians to actually organizing protests on the ground. We try to do as much as possible and try to cover basically the whole world. So it's a very, very different approach. very heterogenic approach but we always try to follow three principal goals and those goals are to ensure that vapors voices are heard because we have the the feeling that too often decisions are made without actually listening to the people who are most effective which are smokers and vapors, also ex-smokers, and we try to change that. The second big goal is to combat misinformation. We see in media and within policy circles, misinformation about basically everything when it comes to harm reduction. So we try to, with all our activities, also to inform decision makers to make better decisions or to be able to make better decisions when it comes to regulating nicotine products and especially less harmful products. And the third goal is actually then campaign for risk-based regulation or in other words consumer-friendly regulation that the most harmful products should be regulated and taxed most and the less harmful according to the risk and that would mean that obviously every public health strategy would have to have to endorse e-cigarettes, snooze, pouches, everything which works to get people away from smoking. And those three things is basically what we try to do with all our activities, no matter where on the world.

00:05:16 --> 00:05:28

Joanna Junak: Thank you, Michael. So about European regulations, what changes are happening now regarding the US Tobacco Products Directive and European Health Strategy in general?

00:05:29 --> 00:07:30

Michael Landl: Yes, we just, at the beginning of this year, we announced our Every Life Counts campaign, and it's basically a plea for harm reduction in Europe. And the background to that is that on the EU level, we have the Tobacco Products Directive, and this is basically the most encompassing regulatory framework in the EU, which regulates obviously cigarettes, but also new products, including vaping. And therefore, it's a very important regulatory issue. And we also always try to emphasize it's not just a European issue, because whatever the EU is doing with the Tobacco Products Directive will be copied by other countries and other parts of the world. So it's a very important one. And it was adopted in 2024 and applied in 2016. And every few years the EU reviews the Tobacco Products Directive if it's still up to date to new products and new issues. And now they are in the process of reviewing it again and then they will put out a new proposal for the Tobacco Products Directive. And what we see or hear so far is actually very worrying because we hear a lot of talk about lower nicotine levels, flavor bans, more restrictions on the products itself, disposable bans, all those kinds of things might be included in the new or in the updated tobacco products directive. And therefore we said, okay, now it's the time to work as I said, to inform policymakers, but also to kind of force them to finally listen to the consumers. And therefore we started this Every Life Counts petitions because 700,000 people are still dying due to smoking in the EU. And we want to raise the awareness that this death shouldn't be forgotten and they are avoidable with a sensible harm reduction strategy.

00:07:32 --> 00:07:42

Joanna Junak: Yes, you mentioned the petition called Every Life Counts. Let's stay here for a moment. Can you tell us more about the key points of this petition?

00:07:43 --> 00:09:36

Michael Landl: Yes, we basically have four demands to politicians in the European Union, including the Commission, but also the European Parliament. And those four are we want a clear commitment to harm reduction because it's crystal clear that harm reduction works. And we see it even within the EU if we look to Sweden. and we want the EU to follow the Swedish success example. The second point is risk-based regulation, so that according to the actual risk of a certain product, the regulation should be adopted to the risk. We want to ensure affordability and access to those less harmful products. So that means, especially for taxation, that it should also be according to risk and no bans for products like nicotine pouches, what we also hear a lot. And the last point is a clear no to flavor bans because this would kind of kill the whole segment of vaping because we all know most of the adult vapers are using some kind of flavors or change their flavors constantly. And with a flavor ban, too many people would be pushed back to smoking or the black market. And therefore, it's crystal clear for us that the EU should follow those four actually pretty straightforward and simple asks and demands. And then I think we could reduce the 700,000 deaths from smoking significantly. And we are very happy that we already have about 24,000 signatures. So I think that will prove to be a very powerful example that consumers can make their voices heard and we will bring those voices to the Parliament and kind of force the politicians to make them to listen to us.

00:09:38 --> 00:09:42

Joanna Junak: Right. And the petition will be submitted to the European Parliament?

00:09:44 --> 00:10:30

Michael Landl: Yes, we will submit it to the European Parliament. There is a separate committee in the Parliament where you can submit petitions like this, but we will definitely also bring it to the members of Parliament themselves. We have elections in summer, so we don't know yet who will be elected in the Parliament, but those are our representatives. So we want to bring those voices to their offices as well, and we'll ask them to follow their demands. And the timeline is that in June there is the election, then we will have the new parliament in summer and we will continue to gather signatures till fall and then end of fall we will submit the signatures to the parliament.

00:10:32 --> 00:10:35

Joanna Junak: So what is the main goal you are expecting to achieve?

00:10:36 --> 00:12:02

Michael Landl: I mean, the main goal is actually to make sure that when the process of the update of the tobacco products directive starts, that all the politicians who will be in the new European Parliament know that there are a lot of consumers out there who are looking and depending on them, and that the smoking issue is a solvable problem if we have sensible regulation. And I think The more signatures we get, the more powerful is this message. And every one of these signatures represents a saved life, basically, because somebody quit smoking thanks to one of those harm reduction products. And with this petition, we want to showcase this powerful message to the politicians and make it harder for them to ignore us. And I think if we can get a significant number of signatures, that it will be impossible for them to ignore us. We will then see what the process will be and the first debates are, but I'm very optimistic that if we can bring consumers together and we all raise our voices that we at least can avoid the worst of the recommendations which are floated around right now, as I said, like flavor bans and those kind of things, because that would literally kill harm reduction in Europe. And we will do everything we can that this won't happen.

00:12:05 --> 00:12:19

Joanna Junak: Thank you, Michael. 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.