Vaping goes missing in the Spanish elections

Despite strong tobacco control efforts, Spain continues to be one of the European countries with the highest number of smokers. According to the latest Eurobarometer, which examines the attitudes of Europeans towards tobacco and e-cigarettes, in 2021, the smoking rate among Spanish adults was 24%, a figure slightly lower than the European Union average, which then stood at 25%, and slightly higher than in countries such as Germany, Italy, Portugal, and the United Kingdom. Due to the high prevalence of tobacco consumption, more than 50,000 people die each year in Spain from smoking-related diseases, a statistic that could easily be addressed by the application of sensible tobacco harm reduction policies. Tobacco harm reduction products have enormous potential to reduce smoking rates and improve public health in Spain, but despite their promising prospect, the future of these products is uncertain and tobacco harm reduction has been a missing topic in the election campaign and manifestos of political parties  in the run-up to Sunday’s elections.

Spanish regulation of e-cigarettes follows the European Tobacco Products Directive, with no additional regulation being implemented by the Spanish state up to date other than restrictions of use in smoke-free areas. But during the last legislature threats to restrict access to and use of vaping products have been several. 

In December 2021, the Spanish government presented its draft of the so-called “Comprehensive Plan for Smoking Prevention and Control 2021-2025”, in which it proposed banning vape flavours and raising taxes on alternative nicotine products. The consequences of its approval would have been catastrophic. As I explained when the plan was announced, flavours are key for smokers to switch to vaping because they help users to forget the flavor of cigarettes and never go back to them. In fact, according to the Yale School of Public Health, vaping flavoured e-cigarettes are associated with a 230% increase in the odds of adult smoking cessation.

Later in the legislature, in June 2022, the Council of Ministers approved the Draft Bill on the Tobacco Market and Other Related Products in which it intended to give electronic cigarettes the same treatment as traditional cigarettes, despite their – huge – differences. Its proposal was to restrict the sale of vaping products exclusively to tobacconists, prohibiting online sales and sales in specialized establishments. As I explained previously, the approval of this law would mean the death of a sector that has more than 400 companies and 3,000 employees in our country.

Now, the lack of clarity of the political parties in their electoral programmes regarding the regulation of electronic cigarettes leaves many doubts about the future of the sector in the next legislature in Spain.  With the exception of Vox, which makes no mention of the problem of smoking in its programme, the proposals of the other parties stand out for their ambiguity. The Socialist Party claims to be committed to a smoke-free generation. To this end, it plans to regulate the use of vapes and tobacco-derived sweetened products, although it avoids specifying what this regulation will be and whether it will include bans on flavours if it remains in government. It also proposes “discouraging tobacco consumption with all the tools to reduce addiction”, but makes no reference to the use of reduced-risk nicotine delivery products to combat smoking. It is expected that, in the event of remaining in Government, the Socialist party will pass both previously mentioned pieces of bad legislation and condemn millions of smokers and vapers to a life of cigarettes. Far left party Sumar proposes “turning fiscal policies into an asset for health (…) by reviewing tobacco taxation”, while the Popular Party only talks about fighting tobacco consumption and promoting healthy habits without referring to any particular measure.

Regardless of the political orientation of the new government, it needs to listen to science and to the experience of hundreds of thousands of Spaniards who have already managed to quit smoking thanks to the use of alternative products. The UK is reducing its smoking rate by leaps and bounds thanks to the use of vapes and Sweden is on the verge of becoming the first smoke-free country thanks to the use of these alternative products to tobacco. Spanish smokers and vapers deserve to be listened to too. 


Sign up to our Newsletter

Other Table

Social Media Feed Maybe?

Act now!

Vaping can save 200 million lives. 2022 is the year to make this opportunity a reality. Raise your voice. Join our campaign. 

Join Us

Vaping can save 200 million lives and flavours play a key role in helping smokers quit. However, policymakers want to limit or ban flavours, putting our effort to end smoking-related deaths in jeopardy.

One Response

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *