The popularity of heated tobacco products in the EU skyrocketed from 2018 to 2020, rising over 2000% according to a commission report published in June. The fact that these heated tobacco products now exceed 2.5% of all tobacco sales means that they now satisfy conditions for the EU to act.
The announcement cited cancer as the main reason for its banning of heated tobacco products. Nine out of ten lung cancers are caused by tobacco. The EU commission reasons that “prevention is better than a cure.” The announcement also states that the ban is aimed at making tobacco products less attractive, particularly for young people.
Will vaping be affected by the ban?
Vaping is not included in the ban, as several major news outlets have inaccurately reported.
This includes Sky News, who has since amended their article to clarify that the target of the ban is not vaping, but heated tobacco products.
In addition, the Irish Sun also published an article and rectified it later by saying “The ban would not cover all vaping devices, only those delivering heated tobacco—many e-cigarettes vapes only contain nicotine.” Still, their startling and misleading headline still remains prominent:
No, vapes will not be included in the ban, thankfully. Vapers can rest easy, for now.
What are heated tobacco products?
Heat Not Burn (HNB) tobacco products, like the IQOS heated tobacco system, are completely separate from vaping. Whereas vapes contain only nicotine, heated tobacco products contain actual tobacco you would find in a cigarette. Instead of burning the tobacco, however, the HNB process heats the tobacco until the nicotine is vaporised.
While heated tobacco isn’t exactly popular in the UK, it’s gaining popularity around the EU, where more smokers are transitioning away from cigarettes. The Politico website states that sales of heated tobacco products have really taken off in Europe.
What products are affected by the ban?
Some of the main heated tobacco brands are the “IQOS” from PMI (Philip Morris International), the “Glo” from BAT (British American Tobacco), and the “Ploom” from JTI (Japan Tobacco International).
It’s worth noting that all of these heated tobacco products come from large tobacco companies, not tech brands, so it makes sense that the EU is looking to curb the companies’ appeal—especially to the younger market. Why these companies continue pouring their money into the traditional tobacco scene instead of redirecting their attention toward the less harmful nicotine-only delivery system is beyond me.
It’s important to note that this ban only affects flavoured products, meaning regular ol’ unflavoured HNB products will remain available to consumers following the ban.
Why are flavoured HNB products being banned?
The EU commission cites the rise in popularity of these products across the 27-country bloc among their reasons for the ban, as nine out of ten lung cancers are caused by tobacco. The commission stated that they’re looking for ways to make tobacco products less attractive, particularly to young people—and one way to curb use is by banning flavourings.
For some reason, flavourings are always inherently tied to young users in the media when it comes to vaping (and HNB products). Many believe that by cutting out flavourings, these products will become less appealing to youths—but guess who else they become unappealing to? Smokers!
The old “youth use” argument has been the reason behind flavour bans across the globe—all while studies consistently show that flavours don’t attract youths as much as they benefit adult smokers. In fact, research has shown that adult smokers often stick with e-cigarettes because they find flavours that they enjoy, which in turn helps keep them off of cigarettes.
If part of the reason someone quits smoking (or stays off cigarettes) is because alternatives offer better flavours than a traditional cancer stick, what do you think that person will do when the flavourings are taken away?
In truth, the “youth use” issue is not a true issue here, especially for the only mildly popular heated tobacco products, which are used by only a small portion of young people. Rather, this seems like an effort to curb the many tobacco products entering the market nowadays, which policymakers fear will fall into the hands of young people despite evidence saying otherwise.
Who does the ban affect?
Anyone who uses flavoured heated tobacco products will be affected by this announcement from the EU commission. These HNB users will have to either switch to flavourless heated tobacco, or change their habits altogether. It’s likely that many users will return to smoking, while others may take up vaping or quit altogether instead.
HNB is, of course, a controversial subject—especially in the vaping scene. Many criticise the method as a half-step away from smoking, whereas vaping is considered a “true” first step. In truth, I think we should be a bit more receptive to whatever product helps people quit—as long as it’s not the final step in their quitting journey.
Heated tobacco products, while still a form of tobacco, are a harm reduction tactic. It’s stifling to see threats on these products when they directly impact the declining number of smokers.
If (and when) this ban goes into effect, consumers can expect to see a drop in available heated tobacco products on the market. Specifically, flavoured HNB products will be removed from shelves, and users of these products will have to alter their habits.
This bit of world news comes as flavour bans are attacking the vape industry across the globe.