WEI has prepared an expert report raising the issue of legal regulations and the prohibition on informing consumers about the commercially available – safer and potentially less harmful – alternative to traditional tobacco products.
The report highlights economic risks resulting from increasingly anachronic regulations limiting the possibility of reliable information on innovative products thus potentially hindering development, research, and investment in the tobacco industry in Poland.
In recent years, the development of scientific research and new technologies has enabled the launch onto the market of products for people addicted to tobacco, whose functioning is significantly different from traditional cigarettes: electronic cigarettes and products heating tobacco (so-called HNB – heat-not-burn, THP – tobacco heating product). According to many experts, they have significant potential in terms of reducing the damage caused by smoking to which consumers of traditional tobacco products are exposed. The emergence of new nicotine-supplying products on the consumer market and their growing popularity have resulted in intense regulatory actions at the national, European and, to a lesser extent, global level.
Regardless of the health aspects that are already convincing the British and American authorities to take a look anew at innovative tobacco and nicotine products, the economic issue still remains unanswered. Tobacco companies in Poland as one of the most significant producers in Europe naturally have a chance to be an important research and production base for products of new generation. The tobacco industry provides approximately 8% of domestic tax revenues (i.e. approximately PLN 23 billion per annum) and employs over 60,000 people. The proceeds from the export of traditional tobacco products produced in Poland amount to over PLN 8 billion. It should be expected, however, that in the long-term perspective and due to the progress of tobacco control regulations, the demand for such products will shrink rapidly, which may have negative economic consequences for companies operating in this industry in our country. The solution is to effectively make use of the potential of our tobacco industry for new, innovative, and safer products that will gradually conquer global markets.
Unfortunately, both the existing Polish regulatory solutions and the official position presented by the Ministry of Health not only do not allow to achieve the assumed regulatory objective (i.e. public health protection), but have exactly the opposite effect by limiting consumers’ access to less harmful products. Desired are legislative changes, which will focus on the protection of public health and take into account the freedom of doing business. Considering the public health of citizens, limiting the harmfulness caused by new nicotine products, in the light of scientific research, should be considered as an effective mechanism of harm reduction for people addicted to nicotine and scientific research on the advantages and disadvantages of such products ought to be actively supported by the Polish government. Regulatory solutions are needed that would allow manufacturers and sellers to inform smokers (consumers of traditional cigarettes), who cannot quit smoking, about the health benefits of using products with potentially less harmful effects.
The full and unabridged report is available here for download (in Polish).