The Spanish Government is about to make a very bad move by unnecessarily tightening vaping regulations. This will present smokers with another obstacle in the way of quitting, and public health will only suffer.
Smoking Prevention and Control Plan – more like Smoking Protection Plan
Published in December 2021, the draft of the so-called “Integral Plan for Smoking Prevention and Control 2021-2025”, shows that the Spanish Government plans to treat vaping at least in the same way as smoking. The Government argues that vaping has short term adverse effects for public health and is a gateway to smoking for underage people.
Biased studies, ignoring science
The legal draft of the law is biased against vaping, citing one-sided studies (many of which have been disproved) on the adverse effects of vaping. It conveniently fails to mention the findings of Public Health England – namely, that vaping is 95% less harmful than smoking, nor its importance as a smoking cessation tool that has already allowed millions of smokers to quit tobacco. In fact, it is estimated that over half a million people already use e-cigarettes in Spain, many of them as a way to keep away from smoking. According to estimations from the Consumer Choice Center and the World Vapers’ Alliance, more than 2 million lives could be saved by switching from smoking to vaping in Spain. Vaping is one of the most important public health successes of the past century and it should be celebrated instead of fought.
Severely misunderstanding flavours
Spanish Health Minister Carolina Darias also claimed that, due to the online availability of vaping products, their low price, their modern look and the broad range of flavors, shapes and colors, vaping is an accessible and attractive option for minors as a way to start smoking – a statement that evidence clearly rejects. To prevent this, the Government wants to severely limit the sale and distribution of vaping products, including banning online sales, and allowing vaping sales only in specialised stores. What this actually means is that the Government wants to make it harder to vape than to smoke. In a nutshell, this is absurd! Driving the prices up and limiting accessibility will impact adult smokers and vapers – those who actually benefit from the harm reduction potential of vaping.
But the Government does not stop here in their draft death sentence to Spanish vaping. Next steps include banning all flavours except tobacco and plain packaging for vaping liquids and devices. We have seen these policies, particularly on flavours, backfire catastrophically, and they surely will in Spain as well. In San Francisco a flavour ban has increased the number of smokers in the city, similar findings from around the world show that massive vaping restrictions lead simply to increased cigarette consumption. Public health is the clear and main loser in this situation.
We have spoken countless times about flavours (read our landmark report here), but the point is straightforward: flavours are the main reason vaping works, they keep adult smokers away from the memory of the taste of cigarettes. When that connection is severed, they are very likely to go back to smoking cigarettes.
Increasing taxes on vaping and other ways to bring back smoking
Did you think that’s all? Of course not. The Spanish Government also suggests imposing a new tax or increasing existing ones on vaping devices, making them less accessible, despite the fact that there is plenty of evidence suggesting that taxes on vaping products also send people back to smoking.
Moreover, the document suggests that the Government intends to increase the number of vape-free public places, claiming that the aerosols emitted by these products are harmful not only to their users but also to those exposed to them. This is a quizzical conclusion , given that a recent study showed that walking through a street of Madrid exposes a person to more toxins than vaping an e-cigarette and concluded that such a thing as “passive vaping” does not exist.
Politicians are misguided – vapers can set them on the right path
Overall, the Government draft shows the lack of knowledge politicians have on harm reduction tools such as vaping and proves the need for vapers to press them and tell their stories. Public health laws need to be based on evidence and not on stigmas. In order to secure this, Spanish vapers’ association ANESVAP organised an event on the issue and is collecting signatures on a petition with the following 4 requests:
– That taxes are kept low in order to guarantee low prices and easy access for consumers.
– That vaping products remain available for sale online.
– That vaping products are not treated in the same way as tobacco when it comes to regulation on smoke-free spaces.
– And that an appropriate range of vaping flavours remain available.The WVA strongly condemns the proposed restrictions and encourages Spanish vapers to sign the ANESVAP petition to protect their rights and to share their stories with us. Spanish politicians need to learn about how vaping improved the lives of thousands. Many lives are still at stake, let’s raise our voices!