Smoking is responsible for nearly 700,000 deaths in the EU annually. Because of this, in the last few years, e-cigarettes and other “next generation” tobacco products have emerged as alternatives to smoking tobacco.
Advocates of these products say that these products are less harmful ways of delivering nicotine to smokers. Many groups believe that they can be a powerful harm reduction tool and can even help smokers to stop altogether.
However, the European Commision has taken a sceptical view of products like e-cigarettes. And in a recent interview, EU Health Commissioner Vytenis Andriukaitis referred to them as “poison”, and that “there is reluctance and a specific attitude towards the tobacco industry.”
He went on to say: “Is it good for health to smoke e-cigarettes? Who would advocate this is very good for health? If they use it as a cessation method, then one can be under the scrutiny of medical doctors. They know how to help you. Not do it yourself.”
But many advocates have accused the EU of ignoring scientific evidence and denying European’s access to some of the most effective smoking cessation tools.
Campaigners in Greece say: “While everyone would wish for smoking cessation to be a simple and easy process towards better health, unfortunately, the reality is disappointing.”
“Smokers should not be punished for the wrong decision they made to initiate smoking, usually early in their lives, and for the lack of highly effective therapeutic smoking cessation interventions.”
In addition, Dr Konstantinos Farsalinos and Dr Konstantinos Poulas from the department of pharmacy at the University of Patras in Greece wrote to the Commission, expressing concerns about the advice being given contradicting the evidence.
The letter said: “It generates confusing messages to smokers who need, deserve and should have the right to access to less harmful products in an effort to quit smoking, a highly dependent behaviour.”
“While it has now become universally accepted within the EU that harm reduction is a necessary and effective approach in reducing the adverse health consequences of recreational drug use, there is a lot of resistance in accepting a similar approach for smoking.”
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