The European Parliament has set up a new Special Committee on Cancer, one of several new committees being launched by the institution.
To mark the occasion, the World Vapers’ Alliance (WVA), a pro-vaping advocacy group based in Brussels, has launched a campaign calling on the EU institutions to endorse vaping in the EU Cancer Plan in order to help Europe overcome smoking-induced cancers.
The WVA’s campaign revolves around 3 key points: vaping is not smoking, it is less harmful than smoking and has the potential to help beat the scourge of cancer.
Cancer is, after heart disease, the biggest killer in Europe (this despite the ongoing ravages of the coronavirus pandemic), claiming tens of thousands of lives every year.
The WVA believes that if the European institutions take note of its proposals in what is a landmark health initiative for Europe, then Europe stands a real chance of eliminating smoking-induced cancers far more quickly.
In an exclusive interview with this website, Michael Landl, Director of the WVA, explains the role vaping can play in creating a healthier Europe.
Q: In what way can vaping help beat cancer?
A: Vaping is one of the most effective ways to help people quit smoking and smoking is one of the leading causes of cancer. If we can encourage people to quit smoking and to vape instead, with the “EU Beating Cancer Plan” then we will contribute significantly to beating cancer in Europe. We launched our ‘Back Vaping, Beat Cancer’ campaign this month to encourage lawmakers to recognise how vaping can help beat cancer, because the science on vaping is clear.
Q: Does vaping still have an “image” problem and is more needed to convince the public (and industry) of its effectiveness in terms of harm reduction?
A: In ways yes. There is a lot of misinformation out there and one of our missions is to fight this misinformation. Harm reduction as a general concept to improve public health has been proven to be effective and is accepted in many fields. Instead of idealized goals it puts practical solutions to reducing harm center stage. I think this approach would go a long way to helping improve the ‘image’ of vaping as it would acknowledge it as an alternative to smoking. Many countries have already adopted this idea. France, the United Kingdom, Canada and New Zealand are actively encouraging current smokers to switch to vaping because, according to Public Health England, e-cigarettes are 95 percent less harmful than smoking.That is why we want the EU to follow their lead and make a clear commitment to the concept of harm reduction in the EU Beating Cancer Plan.
Q: What can the new parliamentary cancer committee contribute towards tackling cancer? Do you approve of its choice of chairman?
A: The European Parliament took a huge step by creating the Special Committee on Beating Cancer. There are over 700.000 people dying every year in the EU because of smoking, and more than 100 million smokers on the continent. But there are also more than 15 million vapers who have found a viable and less harmful alternative. MEPs have a historic opportunity to reduce cancer incidence by supporting the inclusion of alternatives to smoking, such as vaping, in the EU Beating Cancer Plan. I am hopeful that Bartosz Arłukowicz experience as a doctor will lead to a pragmatic approach to reducing smoking without ideological approaches.
Q: How confident are you that the EU Cancer Plan to help Europe overcome smoking-induced cancers?
A: The EU Beating Cancer Plan is a massive opportunity to ramp up the fight against smoking. Including vaping would help millions of European who are struggling to quit smoking and would prevent many deaths associated with cancer from smoking. Am I confident it will be included though? Not 100%. Only last week, an expert committee of the Commission, SCHEER, published a really worrying opinion on vaping. The Committee excluded huge amounts of scientific evidence that shows that vaping helps people quit and is less harmful than cigarettes. This opinion does not consider vaping in the context of smoking and it ignores that vaping is 95% less harmful than smoking. A recent study from the University of St. Andrews shows that the risk of cancer from e-cigarettes compared to that from smoking is less than half a percent but this doesn’t feature either. If the scientific opinions inputting on the Commission’s plans pick and choose evidence which appear to fit a predetermined idea, then I’m worried.
Q: There a danger the fight against cancer will be marginalised as the world tries to get to grips with the pandemic?
A: I am confident in the Commission’s intentions. It seems that the fight against cancer remains a priority for both the Commission and the Parliament and I just hope that in this work they begin to more seriously take into account the experiences of vapers that have successfully quit smoking. I benefitted first hand from vaping and have managed to stay smoke free and improve my health considerably for the last four years because of it. Vaping was kind of a saviour for me. And like me there are millions of vapers who are healthier and lead a better life because of vaping. That needs to be understood by the Commission and the Parliament.
Q: Can you briefly explain what the WVA does to contribute to the well being of smokers?
A: We amplify the voice of passionate vapers around the world and empower them to make a difference for their communities. Our main goals are to ensure vapers voices are heard, to combat misinformation and to make sure that regulations are drafted with vapers’ interests at heart. This is all to ensure that current smokers have access to less harmful alternatives like vaping.
Q: What is the alliance doing and the industry in general to ensure that vaping is safe and secure for users?
A: We need strictly enforced age-limits on vaping to protect young people and we need clear safety regulations to protect vapers, which in the EU is pretty well covered. As the World Vapers’ Alliance we represent consumers, not manufacturers so I cannot speak for the industry, but the EU is already far ahead of many other areas in terms of rules on the safety of e-cigarettes. Some of the more recent attempts to ‘protect people’ are worrying however. Countries like the Netherlands seeking to ban flavours is a big concern. People have this idea that flavours are not used by adults but it’s completely untrue. Flavours are one of the reasons that e-cigarettes remain more appealing to former smokers than smoking and help to keep people off cigarettes. If we’re concerned about youth vaping, then let’s enforce the age restrictions that are already in place. They shouldn’t be vaping at all. A lot of the concerns in the recent past about the health impacts of vaping have been from black market products. If we ban flavours, we’ll see way more black market products which will put people at more risk, not less. We’ve got to think sensibly and we know that prohibition doesn’t work.