Tuesday 25 February 2020

Philip Morris are right and the EU is wrong

Philip Morris has been getting grief from the pompously named 'Bureau of Investigative Journalism' and Channel 4's Dispatches. I haven't watched the Dispatches episode yet, but judging from the press coverage it's very thin gruel.

TV producers seem to think that they can get a scandalous exposé out of any old leaked e-mail. In this instance, the story is that...

Philip Morris International (PMI), one of the world’s biggest tobacco companies, drew up plans for a £1bn tobacco transition fund in the UK to be spent by local authorities and Public Health England on persuading smokers to give up cigarettes in favour of alternatives such as its “heat not burn” smokeless tobacco product, IQOS, leaked documents reveal.

The documents, obtained by the Guardian and Channel 4’s Dispatches programme, show PMI had discussions with a leading anti-tobacco MP about presenting a smoke-free bill proposing the fund to the House of Commons. If passed, the bill would have ended an advertising and marketing ban on IQOS and e-cigarettes.

The MP in question is Kevin Barron and you don't get many politicians who are more rabidly anti-smoking than him.

Barron said he believed e-cigarettes and other nicotine-delivery devices that were less harmful than cigarettes had an important part to play and he had no qualms in meeting companies that wanted to go in that direction.

He is right, of course.

The documents show that the bill, if passed, would have rewritten the rules on e-cigarettes after the UK’s exit from the EU. A European directive dictates the size and strength of nicotine liquids in e-cigarettes, which has, for instance, resulted in Juul devices popular with young people containing only 20mg of nicotine instead of 59mg in the USA, so that they are less addictive. That restriction would go, as would limits on packaging and advertising.

This is exactly what the government should do as in independent nation outside the EU. Article 20 of the Tobacco Products Directive does nothing for health. On the contrary, it makes vaping less appealing and less effective as an alternative to combustible tobacco.

The tobacco advertising ban was passed before reduced-risk products like IQOS were on the market. The law should be changed so that smokers can be informed of their existence, and tobacco companies should be allowed to put inserts into cigarette packs to tell consumers about tobacco harm reduction.

And if Philip Morris wants to save taxpayers some money by giving the government £1 billion to spend on 'transition' so much the better.

This is just common sense and it is telling that ASH, who are leading the performative outrage about it, make no attempt to criticise the proposed reforms or defend the EU's policies.

Arnott said: “Ash has worked with Kevin Barron for decades. He led the campaign in parliament to ban tobacco advertising and it’s thanks to his work that pubs are now smoke-free. If, as it looks like, PMI persuaded Kevin Barron of the need for government to partner with the industry, their ‘normalisation’ strategy is clearly working."

What pathetic tribalism. The stuff of the school yard.

PMI have put their response to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism online and it's worth a read. It seems the 'bureau' got nearly everything wrong.

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